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Continued: Michele Bachmann: Watching her step

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 22, 2007 - 1:03 PM

As of last week, Bachmann has introduced one bill, H.R. 636, allowing people to deduct their medical expenses on their taxes. She's co-sponsored 50 bills. (Among her fellow freshman colleagues, Rep. Keith Ellison has introduced six bills and co-sponsored 305; Rep. Tim Walz has introduced three bills and a resolution, and co-sponsored 176 bills.)

 

• • •

Michele Marie Amble was born in 1956 into a family of Norwegian Lutheran Democrats. When she was young, they moved from Iowa to Minnesota, where she was an A student and a cheerleader and had hair to her waist. She was named Miss Congeniality in the Miss Anoka competition.

In 1970, her parents divorced, and her father moved to California.

Her mother, Jean, got a job at the First National Bank in Anoka, earning $4,800 a year -- not enough to keep up the payments on their home in Brooklyn Park. She sold the house and moved the family to a small apartment in Anoka.

So when sixth-grader Michele wanted contact lenses, she knew she had to tackle the expense herself.

She began babysitting at 50 cents an hour, stuffing dollar bills and quarters into a small bank in her room for two years until, in the summer before ninth grade, she'd earned enough.

Then, one afternoon as she bicycled along West River Road, a contact lens flew out of her eye.

She and her mother got down on their hands and knees, peering at every glint in the gravel, hoping that they wouldn't have to start pawing through the brush that hemmed the highway. Finally, they rose, empty-handed, to a loss that felt enormous. Somehow, Jean found the money to buy a replacement, recalling that she could hardly let her daughter's determination go unrewarded.

 

• • •

Bachmann remembers exactly what she was wearing when she decided that she no longer was a Democrat: "A tan trenchcoat, blue pin-striped shirt, like a tailored shirt, and dress slacks," she said. "It was a vivid memory for me because it was a turning point philosophically."

She was a college senior, sitting on the hard seat of an Amtrak train, headed back to Winona State College. She and her boyfriend, Marcus Bachmann, had worked together on Jimmy Carter's campaign, even attended the inaugural.

Now she was killing time reading "Burr," Gore Vidal's sardonic historical novel about early U.S. history.

"He was kind of mocking the Founding Fathers and I just thought, 'What a snot,' " she said. "I just remember reading the book, putting it in my lap, looking out the window and thinking, 'You know what? I don't think I am a Democrat. I must be a Republican.' "

She had gradually been growing disenchanted with how the country was faring under Carter, while Ronald Reagan was beguiling the nation. "I didn't consider myself overtly political. I certainly didn't think of it as something that I would do as an occupation," she said.

She and Marcus met in Winona when both got student jobs as playground supervisors. Finding much in common -- both had accepted Christ as their savior when they were 16 -- they became friends. Then, in their senior year, he invited her to a dorm party.

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