Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2002, 7th term.

Born: September 6, 1947, Allentown, PA

Home: Burnsville, MN

Education: Rice U., B.A. 1969, Shippensburg U., M.P.A. 1988

Professional Career: V.P., Cntr. of the American Experiment, 2001-02.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Methodist

Family: Married (Vicky) , 2 children ; 4 grandchildren

Republican John Kline, first elected in 2002, is a no-nonsense conservative ally of House Speaker John Boehner. He has risen in a relatively short time to chair the House Education and the Workforce Committee, a panel that Boehner himself once headed.

Kline grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, where his father owned a small hometown newspaper and his mother managed the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra. After graduating from Rice University, he served for 25 years in the Marine Corps. During the Vietnam War, he commanded Marine aviation forces in Somalia, where his duties included responsibility for the Corps’ $50 billion program-objective memorandum, a budget and planning analysis. Later, he was assigned to the White House and carried the so-called “football”—the package containing the nuclear launch codes—for presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; he surely has had more face time with presidents than most other members of Congress. "It’s not something I expected to do when I completed my four years with Marine One," he told Townhall magazine in 2014. "I thought it was time to get back to day-to-day flying, Marine Corps missions and living in tents and things like that, but it was suggested to me that the White House needed another military aide." When he retired in 1994, he settled in Lakeville, in Dakota County, where he managed his wife’s family farm.

Kline challenged Democratic Rep. Bill Luther in 1998 in the old Minnesota 6th District, after Luther had had several expensive and fierce campaigns to keep the seat. Kline favored tax cuts, more military spending, and the resignation of President Bill Clinton in that year’s impeachment proceedings. He also opposed abortion rights. He spent only $283,000; Luther, who raised $1 million, spent only $412,000. That might have been a mistake. Luther won by only 50%-46%. Kline hardly stopped running. More experienced and better financed in 2000, he made his rematch with Luther one of the nation’s high-profile House contests. The result was closer, but Luther survived 50%-48%, and Kline said he was unlikely to run again.

Then the unexpected happened. The redistricting plan ordered into effect by the state Supreme Court in March 2002 placed Kline’s home in a new 2nd District where there was no incumbent. State GOP leaders urged Kline to run again. But Luther’s home was in the new 6th District, which was considerably more Republican after the redistricting. So he decided to take on Kline in the 2nd District. The acrimonious campaign resumed where it had left off. Luther called Kline an extremist who held “Texas values.” Luther’s campaign manager encouraged Sam Garst, a Sierra Club activist and Luther supporter, to enter the race as a candidate of a new “No New Taxes” party—a purposefully deceptive banner designed to siphon votes from the Republican. The local media harshly criticized the scheme as “un-Minnesotan.” This time, Kline won 53%-42%.

In the House, Kline’s voting record has put him among the chamber’s most conservative members. He proposed legislation to replace Ulysses S. Grant with former President Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill. He later became a trusted deputy of Boehner and was given responsibilities at the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans. When the ranking Republican slot on Education and Labor came open in 2009, House Republicans wanted a tough counterweight to liberal panel Chairman George Miller of California. Kline leapfrogged over several more senior Republicans while fending off a challenge from the more junior Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, another Boehner loyalist. As it became clear that Republicans would reclaim the House majority in 2010, Kline was equally tough on conservatives who were campaigning on a pledge to abolish the Education Department as a way to save money. “That’s simply not going to get done,” he said.

As chairman, Kline hoped in the 112th Congress (2011-12) to get some bipartisan backing on a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind education law, which expired in 2007 and which members of both parties have found severely wanting. But after some discussions with Miller, he released a bill in 2011 that essentially cut Democrats out of negotiations. The legislation ratcheted back the federal role in education and handed power back to states and local leaders, whom he said “are clamoring to … revive innovation in our classrooms.” But Democrats excoriated his efforts, joining with business and civil rights groups in arguing that his proposed changes would unfairly impact minorities, low-income students, and students with disabilities. The measure was adopted by the House on a party-line vote.

Kline did work with Miller to get bipartisan bills through the House aimed at modernizing benefits for federal workers and promoting the development of high-performing charter schools. But he turned back efforts from Miller and other committee Democrats in 2012 to investigate mine safety, an area that Congress has not addressed despite several deadly mining accidents in recent years. He also introduced a bill in October 2011 to preempt a National Labor Relations Board plan to implement faster union elections, a move that he said would give businesses less time to make a case against unionization. Kline has been a staunch defender of for-profit schools, repeatedly fighting the Obama administration’s attempts to regulate them. Liberal interest groups have pointed to the sizeable campaign donations he has received from interests in the for-profit sector, but he denies they have influenced his thinking.

Kline antagonized another largely Democratic constituency, LGBT activists, in December 2014. He and Michigan Republican Tim Walberg asked the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to slow down its implementation of a new rule to bar federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. "Everyone should have the right to work and make a living and be judged on their performance, not their orientation, so it's shameful that Congressman Kline wants to withdraw a rule supporting this basic idea of fairness in the workplace,” the Human Rights Campaign's Fred Sainz said in a statement.

With a Republican Senate in 2015, Kline again turned his attention to No Child Left Behind. In a January op-ed column, he promised to steer through legislation embodying four principles: restoring local control "by eliminating the federal accountability system and calling on states to develop a better approach"; eliminating bureaucratic waste and giving state and local leaders more spending flexibility; eliminating federal requirements on academic credentials; and giving parents more options by expanding access to charter schools.

The following month, GOP leaders also chose him to draft their party's alternative to the Affordable Care Act if the Supreme Court struck down the health care law. Though he provided few specifics, he suggested that the measure would cover people with preexisting health conditions as well as so-called "high risk pools" offering subsidized insurance for those who couldn't otherwise get coverage.

In 2006, Democrats appeared to have found a strong challenger to Kline in Coleen Rowley, a retired FBI agent who was lauded by Time magazine in 2002 for going public with the FBI’s decision to ignore recommendations to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, a figure in the September 11 attacks. But as a first-time candidate, Rowley struggled to find her footing, and the party lost interest in her campaign. While other Republicans distanced themselves from Bush and the Iraq war, Kline was forthright about his support for the war, emphasizing his background as a former Marine and as the father of a young Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot (son John Daniel Kline) who did a tour of duty in Iraq. Kline won reelection 56%-40% over Rowley.

In 2008 and 2010, Kline won reelection easily. But post-2010 redistricting, which made the district more competitive, gave him a closer-than-expected race in 2012. His Democratic challenger was Mike Obermueller, a lawyer and former state representative who took moderate stances, such as cutting wasteful spending. Obermueller showed some ability to raise money and got help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But Kline still outraised his rival by 3-to-1 and notched a 54%-46% win.

Democrats continued to go after Kline in 2014. Outside groups singled out his support for a bill to tie student loan interest rates to market rates, which they said could make college more burdensome for students. Left-wing talk show host and rabble-rouser Bill Maher specifically targeted the congressman in his "Flip a District" campaign, even making a personal stop in the district in October. He called Kline "just wrong about everything." But Kline again easily beat Obermueller with 56%.

 

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2271

(202) 225-2595

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2439
Washington, DC 20515-2302

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2271

(202) 225-2595

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2439
Washington, DC 20515-2302

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-2271

(202) 225-2595

350 West Burnsville Parkway Suite 135
Burnsville, MN 55337-2572

DISTRICT OFFICE

(952) 808-1213

(952) 808-1261

350 West Burnsville Parkway Suite 135
Burnsville, MN 55337-2572

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(202) 225-2271

(202) 225-2595

350 West Burnsville Parkway Suite 375
Burnsville, MN 55337

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

350 West Burnsville Parkway Suite 375
Burnsville, MN 55337

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Election Results

2014 GENERAL
John Kline
Votes: 137,780
Percent: 56.08%
Mike Obermueller
Votes: 95,565
Percent: 38.9%
Paula Overby
Votes: 12,319
Percent: 5.01%
2012 GENERAL
John Kline
Votes: 193,587
Percent: 54.09%
Mike Obermueller
Votes: 164,338
Percent: 45.91%
2012 PRIMARY
John Kline
Votes: 15,859
Percent: 85.12%
David Gerson
Votes: 2,772
Percent: 14.88%
2010 GENERAL
John Kline
Votes: 181,341
Percent: 63.31%
Shelley Madore
Votes: 104,809
Percent: 36.59%
2010 PRIMARY
John Kline
Votes: 16,151
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
John Kline
Votes: 220,924
Percent: 57.29%
Steve Sarvi
Votes: 164,093
Percent: 42.55%
2008 PRIMARY
John Kline
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (63%), 2008 (57%), 2006 (56%), 2004 (56%), 2002 (53%)

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