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IP's Anderson wages low-budget campaign for big impact in 6th District

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Bob Anderson
Bob Anderson, Independence Party-endorsed candidate for Congress in Minnesota's 6th District.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Most of the attention over Minnesota's 6th District congressional race has focused on Republican incumbent Rep. Michele Bachmann and her DFL challenger, state Sen. Tarryl Clark, but there's another major party candidate in the race: Bob Anderson.

Anderson, who has the backing of the Independence Party, could have a big impact on a race that most believe he has little chance of winning.

Unlike Bachmann and Clark, Bob Anderson has no campaign staff or office space.

For now, a coffee shop in Anoka has been serving as a meeting place for Anderson and some of the volunteers helping him.

"I'm not a career politician by any means, I'm more of a citizen advocate," he said. "I'm a dental technician by trade. I make teeth."

Anderson, 52, lives in Woodbury. Although he still works for his family's dental business, he sold his stake in the enterprise several years ago. He says the most pressing issue facing the nation is jobs, and that his background as a small business owner makes him uniquely qualified to help turn around the economy.   

They are going to spend $3-4 million dollars on a two-year position in one district of one state. I've got to get that message out to the people.

Anderson says government needs to do more to encourage employers to grow in the U.S. rather than outsource jobs. 

"We've got to have some common-sense regulations. We can't have environmental impact that's going to handcuff us [so] that we can't compete," he said. "We've all got to look at this and make it, like I said -- business friendly. We can't have it where we love jobs but hate employers."

Two years ago, Bob Anderson first tried to defeat Rep. Bachmann. He spent $800 of his own money on that campaign. He did not have the Independence Party endorsement, and didn't come close to winning, but he got 10 percent of the vote -- though some observers think his relative success had more to do with his common name than his message.

This time, Anderson has the IP's official backing.  He's hoping that will help him break through to voters who are fed up with Republicans and Democrats. 

"I want to be able to go in there and represent constituents versus representing the power of the two other parties," he said. "That's why I want to go in as an independent so I can look at this with an open mind, see the best and brightest ideas that both parties have to offer and make my decision and bring that to my constituents."

Anderson says he's a Catholic opposed to legalized abortion. He says Clark, a Democrat who supports legalized abortion, is too liberal for the 6th District.  He says Republican Bachmann is more interested in promoting herself than working for her Minnesota constituents. 

Bachmann's campaign says Bachmann is focused on fighting for her constituents, while Clark's campaign notes that Clark has already won elections in a conservative part of the district.

Anderson says he expects to raise less than $100,000 for his 2010 campaign, and even if he gets that much, it will be just a tiny fraction of the millions Bachmann and Clark plan to spend.  

College of Saint Benedict-St. John's University political science professor Kay Wolsborn says even without much money, she expects Bachmann and Clark will take Anderson very seriously. The election is expected to be close and even if Anderson has little chance of winning he could take votes from either of them.  

Wolsborn says Bachmann and Clark will likely call Anderson's credentials into question, and underscore that he's never held elected office. 

"They will use that. On the other hand, in a year like this a smart candidate can use that as a positive," she said. "[The candidate might say,] 'Well I don't have these dues to pay to  politicians and politics as usual.  I don't have a lot of baggage.' So, he can use that in his favor as well." 

Not only does he have little experience, but Anderson has almost no money.  He says he's loaned his campaign about $2,200 and raised about $100. In comparison, Bachmann has amassed more than $2.3 million through the end of March. Clark had raised more than $1.1 million. 

Anderson says voters might resent  the amount of money Bachmann and Clark are pouring into the race.

"They are going to spend $3-4 million dollars on a  two-year position in one district of one state," he said.  "I've got to get that message out to the people. We've got people that aren't working.  We've got people that are taking a lot less pay and they're going to see this money going out? That's my message is, 'Hey, look at the fiscal frugal guy here!'"

Anderson says he hopes to have a campaign office up and running by the middle of next month.