Wetterling says she knew it would be a tough endorsement fight against Tinklenberg, who had the backing of organized labor and many elected officials in the 6th. But Wetterling led from the first ballot, and after six ballots, she urged delegates to get behind her and defeat Bachmann in November.
"She's bad for this district, she's bad for America, she's bad for families, she's bad for children, she's bad for everything I believe in. I have the ability to pull people together, I've proven that to you for 16 years," Wetterling told delegates.
Wetterling became a national advocate for missing and exploited children after her son, Jacob, was abducted in 1989. On the seventh ballot, Wetterling was close to the 60-percent threshold needed to win endorsement. Tinklenberg had said he could put together the strongest campaign against Bachmann, but he told delegates it was now time to unite behind Wetterling.
"I came into this race believing that it was important for us to have a clear path to winning, and moving against the Republicans. That we could not spend all of our time fighting each other, we had to come to a point where we could move together," he said.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
The delegates then unanimously backed Wetterling, who will face Bachmann and Independence Party candidate John Binkowski in November. Bachmann is a two-term state senator from Stillwater who may be best known for leading the push to put a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage on the ballot. Wetterling told delegates that she's the best candidate to take on Bachmann.
"I am beating Michele Bachmann in every poll done in this race, and in only six weeks, I outraised her more than two to one. I will have the resources to match her dollar for dollar. And not one dollar of mine is going to need to be spent on raising my name ID. It will be spent on spreading our message of hope and opportunity," she said.
Wetterling says she's a stronger candidate than she was two years ago, when she lost to Mark Kennedy by 30,000 votes. Republican Party officials say Wetterling is too liberal for the 6th District, which stretches from St. Cloud across the northern suburban metro. They note that she initially said wouldn't run again in the 6th District, because she said she couldn't win. Wetterling later said that was a dumb statement, and she changed her mind after friends, family and supporters assured her she could win.
Amber Michel, a delegate from St. Cloud, says she supports Wetterling because she's not a typical politician. Michel says that makes Wetterling the best candidate to run against Bachmann, who is a tenacious campaigner and a staunch social and fiscal conservative.
"Patty's not a vicious bulldog like that, and I think going after someone like Patty in the way that I believe that Michele Bachmann will, will backfire. I think it will do a tremendous disservice to Michele to go after Patty like that," Michel said.
The 6th is considered Republican-leaning; President Bush beat Democrat John Kerry in the district 57-to-42 percent in 2004. But it's also viewed as a swing district, with plenty of independent voters who helped elect Jesse Ventura as governor. Democrats in Washington have targeted the race as one that could help them regain control of Congress.