The guest of honor at Wednesday night’s Eighth Annual Hog Roast and Republican gubernatorial forum in Waconia wasn’t any of the state’s many gubernatorial candidates.
It was former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, the event’s featured speaker.
Bachmann paid no mind to the 30 minutes initially allotted for her speech. “I understand I get 3½ hours to speak to you,” she joked after taking the stage at the Waconia American Legion. “And that’s just my introduction.”
No one in the crowd of about 100, which listened intently to her 45-minute speech, appeared to mind. “You don’t cut Michele off,” said Frank Long of the Carver County Conservative PAC, which organized the forum.
Bachmann, one of the most outspoken figures in American politics in the past decade, lately had moved away from the spotlight. She said she travels around the world speaking and serves on an advisory board on faith issues for President Donald Trump.
So she took Wednesday’s opportunity to go long, sharing her thoughts on everything from Minnesota’s educational system to its treatment of refugees to her own interactions with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
“These are two of the most normal, regular, everyday, average people,” Bachmann said early in her speech. “And one of them is a multimillionaire.”
Trump, she said, “has 1950s sensibilities. Which is a great decade.”
She then zeroed in on the issues she believes the GOP should tackle in the upcoming election cycle.
Her words, at times pointed and inflammatory, often targeted the state’s changing demographics and its Muslim Somali population. “Minnesota is a state that now has a reputation for terrorism,” she said, mentioning, among other things, a 2016 stabbing attack in a mall in St. Cloud.
Bachmann said state leaders focus too much on “political correctness,” something she said often during her run for president.
“That’s what I see in Minnesota — too many people who are afraid of being called ‘racist,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘Islamophobe,’ ” Bachmann said. “I’m not afraid of it.”
She also mentioned Justine Damond, the woman who was shot and killed late Saturday by Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor. She called Noor an “affirmative-action hire by the hijab-wearing mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges,” and insinuated that Noor may have shot Damond for “cultural” reasons.
“In Minnesota, we have been marinated in political correctness so long we dare not even allow ourselves to think about cultural questions,” she continued.
She went on to reference Donald Trump’s recent speech in Warsaw, Poland, where he said that “the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will.”
“We’ve got to stop being ashamed of Western civilization,” she said to applause.
Bachmann also criticized the city of Minneapolis for launching a statewide hot line to report hate crimes, saying it is a threat to freedom of speech.
“If we succumb and give up freedom of speech in Minnesota, I’m telling you, it’s game over,” she said. “You never surrender freedom of speech. Ever. Anywhere. And that is the goal.”
Her advice: ‘Be bold’
The Anoka High School grad served in the state Senate from 2001 to 2003. In 2006, she became the first Republican woman from Minnesota elected to the U.S. House.
She is most widely known for her 2012 presidential campaign, which she suspended the day after placing sixth in Iowa’s GOP caucuses. She was then reelected to her seat in Congress, serving until 2015.
She had one major piece of advice for Matt Dean, Jeff Johnson, Phillip Parrish, Jeffrey Wharton and Chris Chamberlin, the GOP gubernatorial candidates who took the stage after her speech. “Be bold” like Trump, she said.
“It is a different Minnesota than when I moved here back in 1966,” she said. “Therefore we need a very different GOP gubernatorial candidate.”
Near the end of her speech, she talked about what she would do if she were governor. “Repeal and end the Metropolitan Council and any rule the Metropolitan Council has ever made,” she said.
Later, she said she has no intention of running for governor.