Rep. Michele Bachmann says she won't seek re-election in 2014. The four-term congresswoman announced her decision in a nearly 9-minute video posted on her website early Wednesday morning.
Bachmann said in the video that the decision wasn't the result of doubts about her ability to win re-election.
"Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by my concerns about my being re-elected to Congress," she said. "I've always in the past defeated candidates that were capable, qualified and well funded."
That opponent, Democrat Jim Graves, recently released campaign poll results that said he had a slight edge over Bachmann.
Graves said Wednesday morning, "I was surprised" at the news.
"She was out in the district, working hard. She was running ads against us on the web, and she was also doing some TV time. So we were quite surprised that she stepped out like she did," Graves said. "But clearly, she got the same message that we're getting up when we're up in the district, is that that people are looking for change, and she didn't see a pathway to victory, apparently, and decided to step aside."
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Asked how Bachmann's announcement might reshape the election 18 months away, Graves sounded familiar campaign themes. "I don't think anything changes," he said. "We have some budget problems. We've got to shore up the trust fund for Social Security and Medicare, we need to address health care costs, bend that cost curve. Those things all stay the same, and we're a long way off from solving those."
Bachmann said her decision not to run again wasn't because of investigations into her presidential campaign last year.
Investigators with the FBI were expected to interview former Bachmann staffer Andy Parrish, perhaps as early as this week. Along with the Federal Election Commission, congressional investigators, an Iowa Senate panel and an Iowa police department, it is looking into various aspects of Bachmann's unsuccessful bid for the White House.
At the center of these allegations is a man named Peter Waldron, who worked on Bachmann's presidential campaign. All of the complaints against Bachmann that investigators are reportedly examining come from Waldron.
Bachmann has said she's confident she will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that a trial has been scheduled next May in a lawsuit filed against Bachmann. A woman says Bachmann's presidential campaign chairman in Iowa took an email list with thousands of names from her computer.
ASSESSING THE POLITICAL FIELD
Parrish says the Republican Party has some good alternatives to put on the 6th District district ballot in November.
"I think the three top tier candidates are going to be Tom Emmer, Rep. Peggy Scott, from Andover, and then possibly Phil Krinkie, from the Taxpayer's League. I think those are the three strongest candidates we're going to have," Parrish said.
Scott is a three-term member of the state House of Represenatives. Emmer is a former gubernatorial nominee and now a radio host, and Krinkie was a former state represenative from Shoreview. None of them has publicly announced their candidacy.
Bachmann's decision might be bad news for her current DFL challenger, too, according to University of Minnesota political science professor Kathryn Pearson.
"If the Republican nominee is someone who is, or has been an elected official, with the capacity to raise a lot of money and is well known to the district, I think it could be a harder fight for Jim Graves than a rematch of Michele Bachmann would have been," she said.
Jerry Deno was sitting outside the Emma's Express gas station with a group of friends in Albertville. He said it's a good thing Bachmann isn't running again.
"I think it's the greatest thing that's ever happened," he said. "I don't care who runs against her; Mickey Mouse, Goofy, I'd vote for them first."
Deno said he didn't like her comments during her run for president in 2012. "She beat around the bush," he said. "She never answered any questions."
St. Cloud resident Sheri Frank and said she's sorry to see Bachmann go.
"I love Michele Bachmann," Frank said. "I think she's very proactive."
Franks said she hopes Bachmann's decision to not running again for Congress means she's once again focusing on a higher office.
"I'm hoping she's going to run for president again. That's what I hope is going on," Frank said. "I don't think it has anything to do with the controversy that's going on with her [campaign] funding, or whatever."
NO HINTS DROPPED
The video announcement came the day after she joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the ceremonial ground breaking for the new St. Croix River bridge. Touting the project funded by federal legislation that she helped push through Congress, she gave no hint that she was about to bow out of the 2014 race.
Bachmann's district once included Stillwater.
"If we didn't build this bridge we would lose jobs, we would lose growth, we would lose an economy and we would lose safety," Bachmann said during the event in which she stood shoulder to shoulder with Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. "All of us are going to gain from this. Not just now, but in the future."
Bachmann first won election to Congress in 2006. Before that she served in the Minnesota Senate, where she successfully fought national education standards and supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
In Congress she developed a national following propelled by frequent appearances on cable TV news shows and raised millions for her campaign from donors across the country.
She spoke out against the federal health care law known as Obamacare and headed the House Tea Party caucus.
Her career has also been marked by controversial statements that were often found to be factually incorrect. She was widely criticized when she said after a presidential debate that mental retardation may be linked to immunizations. In the 2008 campaign she suggested in a cable TV interview that members of Congress should be investigated for anti--American views.
Bachmann did not say what she will do after she leaves office, but said she would remain active for the rest of her term.
"I will continue to work overtime for the next 18 months in Congress defending the same Constitutional Conservative values we have worked so hard on together," she said.