Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has appeared at least eight times since January on Fox News' Sean Hannity Show. How many mayors or county commissioners in Bachmann's Sixth District swath of central Minnesota have had an equal number of conversations with her this year?
The Editorial Board didn't get a chance ask Bachmann, who declined repeated requests for a meeting. But voters deciding whether to send her back for a third term deserve an answer. While Bachmann primps for the cameras, her district struggles with unemployment, clogged roads and foreclosure-pocked neighborhoods. Four years of media razzle-dazzle have made Bachmann a political headliner, but it's done little for her beleaguered constituents back home.
That's why it's time for the Sixth District to elect a legislative workhorse -- Democratic State Sen. Tarryl Clark -- instead of a showhorse.
Clark, an attorney and mother of two, is a respected legislator from St. Cloud who was first elected in 2005. Endorsed by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Clark has been a strong advocate for small-business owners and pushed for the development of angel investor tax credits in the state. With a father and two brothers who are U.S. Navy veterans, Clark has also been a strong champion for military families, leading efforts to ensure job protections for families whose loved ones have been killed or seriously hurt. She gets high marks from colleagues for her ability to bridge differences -- a key reason why she has served as the Senate's assistant majority leader since 2006. The tax vote that Bachmann's ads rip her for was actually cast for a responsible state budget bill balancing hefty cuts with some increased revenue.
What distinguishes Clark from Bachmann is her willingness to put common sense before rigid ideology to serve the Sixth District, which stretches from St. Cloud through Anoka County to the metro's eastern suburbs. Clark is well-versed in health care issues and committed to smoothing health reform for consumers and providers -- not prolonging the uncertainties. Unlike Bachmann, she's willing to carry legislation to secure federal funding for bridges and other projects in need of repair. Unlike Bachmann, Clark stands ready to help county officials expand the Northstar rail line's schedule and its service to St. Cloud. Local officials are frustrated by Bachmann's lack of interest.
"I've not found that Michele Bachmann is very interested in projects that are important to the Sixth District," said longtime Anoka County Commissioner and rail champion Dan Erhart.
The 2010 bills Bachmann has introduced speak volumes about her priorities. While families in her district worried about jobs last year, Bachmann was fighting an imaginary threat: a global currency. Badly misconstruing statements by U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Bachmann wrote an embarrassing bill steeped in conspiracy theory calling for a constitutional amendment to prevent the United States from adopting another country's currency. Keep in mind that Bachmann also spread fears about the Census, anti-American members of Congress and has argued that health reform would lead to abortion field trips at schools. Is this paranoia an act or a ploy to keep the TV cameras trained on her? It's disturbing to have to ask this question.
An embarrassing back story about another 2010 bill raises troubling questions about Bachmann's effectiveness as a legislator. The bill would have allowed the U.S. secretary of the Interior to approve a bridge over the St. Croix River. But she undercut the bill's chances when she alienated some colleagues by not following traditional processes -- essentially she did the lawmaking equivalent of driving on the shoulder while others waited in traffic with their bills. Bachmann's bill, tellingly, had zero co-sponsors.
When it came to another key issue facing her district this year, the proposed tax on the medical device industry in the health reform bill, the self-proclaimed pro-business, anti-tax champion didn't take the lead. Instead, Klobuchar and freshman Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen from Minnesota's Third District did the heavy lifting to reduce the tax by half. Bachmann was also the sole Minnesota U.S. House representative to vote against the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, a measure supported by leading industries and trade groups because it helps keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Bachmann is in touch with Hannity and Glenn Beck but out of touch with her district. Voters should also vote for Clark over Independent Bob Anderson. Anderson, a dental technician who is running a second time, has little political experience and few original ideas on how to cut federal spending and generate jobs. He's not a credible candidate, and Minnesotans shouldn't waste their votes.