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WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential announcement on Monday leaves Minnesota Republicans in limbo over the congressional seat she could leave behind.
Bachmann said that she will suspend her congressional campaign as she embarks on a White House bid. But she's left open the possibility of returning to her House seat, and Minnesota's election law gives her until June, 5, 2012, long after the key presidential primaries.
As Republicans consider jumping into the race for a potentially open seat in the state's most conservative district, they do so knowing that Bachmann -- and the millions of dollars she raises during her presidential bid -- could return to reclaim her seat.
"I think most people will be respectful of Michele Bachmann's campaign for president," said Tony Sutton, Minnesota GOP party chair. "If she is the nominee, then people will make a move."
Combine Bachmann's run with congressional redistricting -- in which Republicans have proposed overhauling the Seventh and Eighth districts and the map probably won't be finalized until 2012 -- and this year's Minnesota congressional primaries could be the most topsy-turvy in recent memory.
State Republicans acknowledge that the Sixth District is Bachmann's to come back to, even if it's only a consolation prize.
"It seems to me that anybody would be foolish to start making their plans and talking as if they would be a candidate until Michele Bachmann says she's no longer going to be the Sixth District representative," said 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate.
So far, Bachmann has not given Republicans in the district any greater clarity about her plans should her national bid fall short, according to numerous state Republicans.
'A wealth of candidates'
That hasn't stopped the buzz on possible replacements.
About a dozen names have been tossed out as potential candidates since Monday, indicative of the Sixth District's deep GOP bench.
No one is jumping in head-first. Former state Rep. Phil Krinkie, who took on Bachmann in 2006, said he's contemplating a run. House Majority Leader Matt Dean said he hasn't ruled out joining the fray. Anoka County Board Chair Rhonda Sivarajah is keeping her "options open." Former state Rep. Chris DeLaForest is "taking a look."
Other top names: Emmer, former U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, state Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, Senate President Michelle Fischbach, former state Rep. Jim Knoblach and businessman Jay Esmay. Knoblach and Esmay ran against Bachmann in 2006.
"It was a crowded field last time around, and I would expect it would be again," DeLaForest said.
On the Democratic side, DFL party chair Ken Martin said that Bachmann "changes the whole dynamic of the race," including which DFLers might run. "There are several different types of candidates that might be more willing to step forward if Michele Bachmann is not in the race," Martin said.
Former state Sen. Tarryl Clark, who lost to Bachmann in 2010, moved into what is now the Eighth District to prepare for a run at freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack in 2012. She said Wednesday that she remains focused on the Eighth even if Bachmann doesn't run.
Money and redistricting
One reason Bachmann could easily move back to her House seat? The money she raises for a presidential race could be moved wholesale to a congressional run because both offices are federal.
If Bachmann does well in the presidential primaries and forgoes a House run in spring 2012, it could leave other Republicans scrambling to make up ground against Democrats who would get a several-month head start on fundraising.
Sutton downplayed the significance of a late entrance. "Whoever would run if Michele doesn't run, I'm sure, would be a very strong candidate and could raise money quickly and do what it takes," he said.
GOP Sixth District Chairman David FitzSimmons said the endorsing convention would likely be in April, by which time the presidential nomination should be locked up.
No matter what Bachmann does, redistricting will add to uncertainty for both parties. The Sixth District has to shed about 95,000 people -- more than any other district. While it is likely to remain the state's most conservative district, its shape will undoubtedly change.
"Many of the folks listed as potential candidates -- none of us even [knows] if we're going to be in the Sixth District," said Sivarajah.
Staff writer Rachel E. Stassen-Berger contributed to this report. Jeremy Herb • 202-408-2723