Republicans eye 2014 run for Minn. 6th District seat

Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. chair of the Tea Party Caucus speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 16, 2013, during a news conference with tea party leaders to discuss the Internal Revenue Service targeting tea party groups. Bachmann on Wednesday announced that she will not seek a fifth term for Minnesota's 6th District seat.
AP Photo/Molly Riley

At least eight Republicans are considering a run for Minnesota's 6th Congressional District seat after Rep. Michele Bachmann announced she will not seek re-election to a fifth term.

The prospect for Republicans keeping the seat may have increased with Bachmann's departure. While many Minnesota Republicans are praising Bachmann for her work in Congress, there are also a few who may be breathing a sigh of relief that she won't be on the ballot.

"Republicans probably dodged a bullet here. There was a serious probability that they could lose a Republican seat in an off-year election," Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier said.

"That probability is significantly reduced by the fact that Michele Bachmann is not running for reelection."

Bachmann has been a lightning rod for criticism in recent years, Schier said. In 2012, she barely won in a solidly Republican district.

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To get an idea of the GOP strength in the 6th District, one only need see that of the 33 state legislators representing all or part of the district, 30 are Republicans.

And for Republicans thinking about higher office, now may be the time. State Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, said she is talking with her family about running.

"There's not a lot of turnover in congressional seats and so if an opportunity presents itself you have to consider it," Benson said.

"You don't really find out what kind of political muscle you have until you actually step up and say 'I'm running.'"

Others are thinking about jumping back into elective politics. They include former state Rep. Phil Krinkie, who once ran against Bachmann for the party's endorsement. Krinkie, who chairs the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, said he even has some old campaign hardware left over.

"As a true conservative, some would just call me a pack rat, I still have my signs from when I sought the 6th Congressional District endorsement back in 2006," Krinkie said.

State Rep. Peggy Scott of Andover is another candidate Republicans are buzzing about. Scott is putting her name on the "maybe" list.

"I think I share the conservative values of the 6th District and so I think in that respect it's a good fit," Scott said. "I think I pretty much align well with those conservative values so I think that's one of the reasons that my name it being thrown out there."

There is at least one candidate who does not live in the district but who is thinking about running. State Rep. Matt Dean's home is in the 4th Congressional District but his legislative district overlaps part of the 6th. He knows the district well, he said, from before the political boundaries were redrawn and during his time as majority leader of the Minnesota House.

"I've represented the 6th District -- the new and the old district -- since I was elected in 2004," Dean said. "I recruited a lot of the candidates running. Some of them won and some of them lost, but I'm very familiar with the activists in the 6th."

Other possible candidates include Tom Emmer who narrowly lost his 2010 gubernatorial bid to Mark Dayton. A statement from Emmer said he is strongly considering a run. State Rep. Tim Sanders of Blaine, Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah and Pete Hegseth also say they are thinking about it.

Among Republicans not considering a run is state Rep. David FitzSimmons of Albertville. However, FitzSimmons could play a role in determining the endorsement since he served as GOP chair of the 6th District from 2009 and 2012. He also helped Emmer win the party's gubernatorial endorsement in 2010.

Running for Congress is a huge undertaking which could surprise some state lawmakers, FitzSimmons said.

"You have to go to a lot of places and be everywhere and talk to a lot of people. Your district just got a lot bigger," FitzSimmons said. State Rep. Linda Runbeck of Circle Pines also is not running. Runbeck, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1998 and 2000, said candidates should think long and hard before jumping in.

"You don't really find out what kind of political muscle you have until you actually step up and say 'I'm running.' And then you find out, well, 'Maybe I'll fall short for this reason or that reason,'" Runbeck said.

Minnesota will see if any of those candidates announce quickly to try and muscle others out of the race. Whoever wins the Republican nomination will face Democrat Jim Graves who spent $2 million on his unsuccessful 2012 run against Bachmann.

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