In Bachmann's district, a mixed response to presidential bid

Rep. Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announced that she is formally entering the race for president during a New Hampshire Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Monday, June 13, 2011.
Jim Cole/ASSOCIATED PRESS

This week, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announced a formal bid for the White House. The conservative Republican remains popular in her district and her constituents are reacting to her decision to run for president.

Bachmann represents Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, which covers an area northwest of St. Cloud, counties west of the Twin Cities metro, stretches across some northern suburbs, and includes part of the east metro along the St. Croix river. Right in the middle is the town of Elk River, where Brad and Nancy Bjorkman live.

While raised their four children in the district and during that time, the Bjorkmans watched Michele Bachmann rise from school board candidate to state senator to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives with a national following. Brad Bjorkman said Bachmann strongly represents their beliefs.

"Regarding the social issues, she is for defining marriage as between one man and one woman, something she championed when she was in the Minnesota Senate," Brad Bjorkman said. "She's strongly pro-life, is strongly for reduced taxes, and these are all values we share. And I think this country could use a bit more, a lot more of that right now."

The Bjorkmans say while they like all the candidates in the Republican field, they still haven't made up their minds on whether they would support Bachmann for president. But Nancy Bjorkman said Bachmann's consistency is one quality that makes her stand out.

Brad and Nancy Bjorkman live
Bachmann supporters Brad and Nancy Bjorkman live in Elk River, Minn. Brad Bjorkman said Bachmann strongly represents their beliefs.
MPR Photo/Matt Sepic

"I think that whatever she says now is what she'll say then. I don't think she speaks out of both sides of her mouth," Nancy Bjorkman said. "I think she's willing to take a stand and stick with it, even when the guns are against her. And I appreciate that."

Bachmann won re-election last fall with nearly 53 percent of the vote, but she may not run for a fourth term. Bachmann suspended her Congressional campaign to run for the Republican nomination. Retired teacher NormaJeanne Ellis of Andover, a lifelong Democrat, said she'd welcome someone new in the 6th District.

"I'd really like someone a little more moderate, a little more center of the line and be accepting of all people, all religions," Ellis said. "Because we're a varied area. The world is varied, and l'd like to see someone who could recognize that."

As for the presidential bid, Ellis said it's nothing more than a publicity stunt.

"I don't think she has a shot. But I think she likes the attention," she said.

On the eastern end of the district is the town of Stillwater, where Bachmann currently lives. Bachmann, along with Minnesota's two Democratic senators, support replacing the town's deteriorating lift bridge.

Jesse Kurtz
Stillwater resident Jesse Kurtz is a Vietnam veteran, retired sheriff's deputy and now a private investigator. He said he's glad to see Bachmann jump into the race, but added she needs more experience before becoming president.
MPR Photo/Matt Sepic

Stillwater resident Jesse Kurtz is a Vietnam veteran, retired sheriff's deputy and now a private investigator. He's a moderate Republican who voted for Bachmann, but he also admires some Democrats like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Kurtz said he's glad to see Bachmann jump into the race, but added she needs more experience before becoming president.

"Would I like to see her as a governor first, so she can govern in the big picture as opposed to the district?" Kurtz said. "I'd like to see somebody as our leader who's well-rounded and experienced."

Kurtz said he'd like to see someone who could handle the situation in the Middle East and take care of some of the issues there. He said, at age 55, Bachmann is still young enough to gain that experience.

Like most people across the 6th District, Kurtz said even if her presidential bid is ultimately unsuccessful, Minnesotans will not have heard the last of Michele Bachmann.

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