Rep. Michele Bachmann (R)
Minnesota 6th District
The earliest settlers of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul came up the Mississippi River or up the rail lines that were soon built on the bottomlands beside it. They lived within walking distance of the mills and factories and rail yards. As the first streetcars and then automobiles allowed them to live farther from work, they spread out in St. Paul and Minneapolis and then all around the lake-strewn countryside. The flatlands are bleak here when the winter sun struggles to shine through gray clouds. The lakes are often surrounded by, and sometimes indistinguishable from, swamps. Stillwater, an old lumber-mill town built by pioneers on the hills above the St. Croix River, once nearly became Minnesota’s capital, but later turned into an economic backwater, its Victorian structures ill tended. Even so, the creativity and productivity of Minnesotans have turned this superficially grim countryside into some of the nation’s most pleasant suburbs. Taking maximum advantage of their lakes, they refurbished old towns and farmhouses and built comfortable homes in new subdivisions.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Minnesota is a suburban and exurban district north of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It dips as far south and east as Stillwater, with new riverfront housing developments along the St. Croix. It spreads north over Washington and Anoka counties, just north of the Twin Cities, with a mix of upscale and working-class suburbs. To the northwest, along the Mississippi River, are Wright, Sherburne and Benton counties, which have grown rapidly from a combined total of 141,000 people in 1990 to 247,000 in 2008. Young voters, usually from ancestrally Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party families, have become the key swing voters. Farther to the northwest, the district also includes the eastern half of St. Cloud-based Stearns County, a heavily German-Catholic area and a stronghold of anti-abortion rights sentiment. The 1990s saw an influx of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese into St. Cloud. And since 2000, several thousand Somalis have moved in and started up their own businesses. In 1998, the district, especially the fast-growing counties, was Jesse Ventura country; newcomers tended to vote Republican. George W. Bush carried the district 52%-42% in 2000 and 57%-42% in 2004, the latter his best showing in any Minnesota district. Likewise, Republican presidential candidate John McCain won here 53%-45% in 2008, his best in the state.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: April 6, 1956, Waterloo, IA .
Education: Winona State U., B.A. 1978, Oral Roberts U., J.D. 1986, Col. of William and Mary, LL.M. 1988.
Family: Married (Marcus); 5 children.
Elected office: MN Senate, 2000-06.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1995-2000.
The congresswoman for the 6th District is Michele Bachmann, a Republican elected in 2006. Bachmann grew up in cities across the Midwest and attended Winona State University, where she met her husband while working on Democrat Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign. She became disillusioned with Carter and his party’s position on abortion rights, and gravitated toward Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party. Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, both born-again Christians, moved to Tulsa, where she earned a degree at Coburn Law School at Oral Roberts University. After studying tax law at the College of William and Mary, Bachmann landed a job as a U.S. Treasury Department attorney in St. Paul, arguing criminal and civil tax cases. Her political career began in 1999, with a losing bid for the Stillwater school board. A year later, she won a seat in the state Senate by defeating a moderate Republican incumbent for the party’s endorsement and then in the primary. In 2002, she defeated a ten-year Democratic incumbent when redistricting put them in the same state Senate district. In the Legislature, Bachmann sought to protect private-property rights, limit government spending and cut taxes. She was a prominent abortion-rights opponent and gained notoriety in 2004 for leading an unsuccessful fight for a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
|Michele Bachmann (R)||187,817||(46%)||($3,565,248)|
|El Tinklenberg (DFL)||175,786||(43%)||($2,515,420)|
|Bob Anderson (Ind)||40,643||(10%)|
|Michele Bachmann (R)||19,127||(86%)|
|Aubrey Immelman (R)||3,134||(14%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (50%)
When Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy gave up the 6th District seat to run for the U.S. Senate, Bachmann entered the Republican primary as the candidate to beat; she clinched the nomination at the party convention by defeating three other candidates. She had a following among social conservatives, but her stances also made her a polarizing figure. Clear ideological differences separated Bachmann and her Democratic opponent, Patty Wetterling, in the general election. Wetterling became a nationally recognized advocate for missing children after her 11-year-old son, Jacob, was abducted in 1989 and never found. Her support for abortion rights, her call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and her opposition to a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage prompted Republicans to portray her as too liberal for this suburban and exurban seat. Neither candidate lacked money. Wetterling spent more than $3 million to Bachmann’s $2.7 million. President Bush helped Bachmann raise money, and Wetterling enjoyed support from EMILY’s List.
Bachmann downplayed her social positions and instead emphasized her opposition to taxes. Wetterling trailed in polls until October, when the congressional-page scandal suddenly thrust her into the national spotlight. With her background in child advocacy, Wetterling emerged as a top party spokeswoman on the scandal, in which Republican Rep. Mark Foley was discovered to have sent sexually explicit e-mails to young congressional pages. Democratic leaders tapped her to deliver the party’s weekly radio address. But Bachmann was well-positioned to weather the political fallout. She is the mother of five children and, while in the Legislature, had sponsored legislation establishing a task force on Internet crimes against juveniles. She had also been a foster parent to 23 children. Polls showed that Wetterling had surged ahead after the scandal broke, but her lead was fleeting. In a political atmosphere that could not have been more hostile for Republicans, Bachmann won a decisive 50%-42% victory.
In the House, Bachmann has a strongly conservative voting record. She has received more than the usual share of attention for a junior House member because of her outspoken style. She has a good ear for issues that play well with conservatives, including her refusal to seek earmarks for her district, her opposition to the bailout of the financial markets in 2008, and her support for development of new energy resources when gas prices spiked. Some of the attention was less favorable. In early 2007, she said that Iran planned to split Iraq into two parts, one of them a “terrorist haven” that would launch attacks on the United States. When asked for evidence to support such a claim, Bachmann said her comments might have been “misconstrued.”
In October 2008, she created a national sensation during the presidential contest when she went on MSNBC’s Hardball political talk show and said that Democratic nominee Barack Obama “may have anti-American views.” National Democrats sought to make Bachmann a poster child for intolerance. The publicity led to an immediate tightening of her re-election contest with Democratic challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg, a former state transportation commissioner. Nearly $2 million flowed into his campaign during the weeks that followed. In her defense, Bachmann said, “I have strong views,” and she accused the show’s host, Chris Matthews, of “full-fledged distortion” and the bloggers who’d picked up the story of being “motivated entirely by their hatred of me and my conservative beliefs.”
Bachmann was aided by early fundraising that left her with a cash advantage, even against the Democratic onslaught. Independence Party candidate Bob Anderson may have saved Bachmann by drawing 10% of the vote, much of which probably would have gone to Tinklenberg. Bachmann prevailed 46%-43%, with a victory margin of 12,000 votes. She won 47%-43% in Anoka County and 51%-38% in Wright County. Tinklenberg took two counties at the opposite ends of the district, which had the second- and third-largest vote: He won 48%-44% in Washington and 48%-43% in Stearns. He also won in Benton County. After the election, Bachmann unsuccessfully sought a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee. She could face another competitive contest in 2010—in May 2009 Tinklenberg announced he would seek a rematch.