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Bachmann, Tinklenberg clash in debate

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Elwyn Tinklenberg and Michele Bachmann
Candidates for Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, DFLer Elwyn Tinklenberg and incumbent Michele Bachmann, debate in St. Cloud, Minn.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

Both major parties have recently pledged financial assistance for their candidates in  Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. 

And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Thursday released new poll results that show Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg is within 4 percentage points of first-term Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann. Later in the day Bachmann released her own poll showing that she is leading by 11 points.

Both candidates took a noticeably more aggressive approach during their second of three scheduled debates. Bachmann criticized Tinklenberg for supporting the massive financial industry bailout that she voted against twice.

"You and I will probably be long gone, and this package still won't be paid for," she said. "Who's going to pay the bill? Someone has to pay the bill, and this is not the way to do it. I'm grateful I stood up against this administration and this very bad spending bill."

Tinklenberg  suggested that Bachmann, as an incumbent, should be held more accountable for her role in the financial crisis. He questioned why Bachmann didn't see the crisis coming while serving on the House Financial Services Committee.

"You need to be able to work together and move forward with solutions," he said. "While Rep. Bachmann was sitting on the Financial Services Committee, she was talking about caribou in Alaska instead of what was happening to our financial institutions." 

Tinklenberg was referring to Bachmann's trip to Alaska earlier this year, where she called for expanded oil drilling in ANWR. Tinklenberg opposes the move and described Bachmann's energy plan as "drain America first." 

Bachmann took several shots of her own, calling Tinklenberg a tax and spend liberal, while warning of a Democratic-controlled Congress.

Bachmann also blasted Tinklenberg for his ties to labor unions and supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. That's the proposed legislation that would allow workers to organize unions through signature drives.

"How could we possibly think that we're going to take away the right of people to a secret ballot? Imagine that," she said. "And in the area of whether or not they're going to organize in their local business.  To take away the right of the common man is downright un-American."

Bachmann and Tinklenberg also discussed their contrasting views on health care, tax policy and immigration. Bachmann said she opposes an amnesty plan for illegal immigrants and favors sealing the nation's borders. 

She also brought up the case of Olga Franco, the woman convicted in connection with a fatal school bus accident in Southwestern Minnesota. Bachmann said Franco was an example of the problems with illegal immigrants. 

Tinklenberg didn't agree with Bachmann on her immigration reform proposals, and he responded angrily to her reference to Franco. 

"It's just a little untoward to exploit a tragic situation to advance a narrow ideological agenda in regard to immigration," he said. "Going after Olga Franco and every immigrant because of that accident just doesn't seem right to me."

The Independence Pary candidate, Bob Anderson, was not invited to the debate, which was sponsored by the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Tinklenberg and Bachmann will face off once more before Election Day on Minnesota Public Radio's Midday program Oct. 30.