DELANO — U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s decision to retire has lit a frenzy of ambition among Sixth District Republicans, and the first to come out blazing was 2010 gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.
“I have never felt more compelled in my life to serve,” Emmer said to at least 100 supporters at a tiny park here in his hometown. During a brief dry spell in the daylong rain, Emmer ticked off the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, the Justice Department’s search of reporters’ records and out of control spending as reasons to run. “Is this the legacy we want to leave to our children?” he said. “The answer obviously is no and the time to act is now.”
Emmer’s return to electoral politics a week after Bachmann said she would not run for re-election highlights the new energy in a conservative district Republicans had feared they would lose and Democrats had hoped they would snatch. Bachmann’s increasingly controversial profile and tumultuous four terms in Congress had put even the state’s Republican-filled district at risk, operatives from both parties said.
“Rep. Bachmann would have faced an uphill race,” that would have forced the GOP to pump in cash to defend her turf, said Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman, now a lobbyist and political king maker in Washington, DC.
Bachmann herself has been unusually quiet since last week, when she released a pre-dawn video announcing she would not return to Congress after this term. She then jetted off to Russia on a congression fact-finding trip. Since her return, she has declined Star Tribune requests for an interview.
With Bachmann no longer a factor, other Republican are lustfully eyeing the rare open seat in a reliably conservative district that takes in exurban Carver and Wright counties, suburban Anoka and St. Cloud.
“No question this should be a Republican district, but we can definitely lose it if we get complacent or nominate the wrong candidate,” said Pat Shortridge, who managed two of Republican Mark Kennedy’s successful campaigns for the district and who is considering running for it himself this year. “You don’t win the Sixth just by putting a Republican name on the ballot.”
A week after Bachmann’s announcement, not a single DFL has stepped forward. One day after Bachmann’s withdrawal, DFLer Jim Graves had pledged to continue his bid for the seat, but soon reversed himself and dropped out.