The motivation void in the Sixth

  • Blog Post by: $author
  • May 31, 2013 - 1:13 PM

"I'm not a politician; I'm a business guy," erstwhile DFL congressional candidateJim Graves told MinnPost's Eric Black as he explained Thursday why he's suspending his second try, now that Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has announced that she won't seek reelection in 2014.

Evidently the St. Cloud hotelier is good at self-analysis. No smart politician would have made the confession he did in the next breath: “Now there are zero things on my agenda that I feel a need to do in public life.”

So in 2012 the Graves campaign was all about taking Bachmann out of office, and not about health care or fair taxation or America's economic competitiveness -- or public service? An admission like that will hobble any future Graves candidacy -- not that he gave much indication that he has any desire to pursue public office again.

Graves withdrawal, coming two days after Bachmann imposed term limits on herself, creates a major headache within the DFL camp. State party chair Ken Martin put a brave face on the situation: "Although (the Sixth) is a conservative district, with the right candidate this is a great opportunity for Democrats," he said in a statement.

But until Friday morning, DFLers thought the right candidate was a moderate-minded, deep-pocketed businessman with a compelling life story, deep roots in the district, an already established name and the seasoning produced by coming within 4,300 votes of Bachmann in 2012. Finding a candidate with similarly appealing DFL credentials will be a tall order in what is, by the numbers, Minnesota's most staunchly Republican congressional district.

Graves' decision is also likely to make both political parties wary of recruiting candidates from business ranks. His move is reminiscent of the 1965-66 decisions of Northwestern National Life CEO John Pillsbury Jr. to get in, then get out, then get into the 1966 gubernatorial race. He likely would have been the GOP nominee that year, but for all that indecision. He lost at the state convention to Harold LeVander, who went on to win the governor's office.

The Graves episode serves to remind Minnesotans that despite their many parallels, government is not business. The motivation required to succeed at each is different. A call to public service ought to run deeper in a candidate than a desire to cut short the career of an opponent, no matter how flawed she may be.


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