With Rep. Mark Kennedy relinquishing his House seat to run for the Senate, four fellow Republicans in Minnesota’s 6th District (suburban St. Paul) competed for the GOP nomination to succeed him at a districtwide convention earlier this year. In what is increasingly rare in political competition these days, all the candidates honored pre-convention pledges to rally behind the person who won the endorsement of the convention.
What is perhaps more intriguing is that the candidate chosen by the convention was by far the most controversial conservative in the pack: State Sen. Michele Bachmann.
Over her six years in the senate, Bachmann has been a top target of the left. But the 51-year-old Bachmann has never lost a primary or general election and never trimmed her conservative sails. Proudly sporting a 100% rating from Michigan Citizens for Life, Bachmann is a spirited foe of taxes and spending and a vociferous advocate of local control of education. Indeed, the mother of five and foster parent of 23 cut her political eyeteeth organizing local opposition to the Clinton Administration’s “Goals 2000” program that would have vastly enhanced the U.S. Department of Education’s control over local public schools. Bachmann also opposes the Bush Administration’s “No Child Left Behind” program, and in a stand rare for Republicans today, the Minnesotan has dusted off a position that was once a clarion call for conservative congressional hopefuls: abolishing the Department of Education.
Her Democratic foe is a well-known area liberal: Patty Wetterling, a math teacher and founder of a foundation to help missing children, who raised more than $2 million and drew 46% of the vote against Kennedy in ’04. With support from the pro-abortion EMILY’s List and Moveon.org, Wetterling is back and considered in stronger shape with the 6th District now open.
Can Michele Bachmann stop her? “Sure,” says the conservative hopeful without hesitation, “I’ve won tough races before. And besides, [late far-left Democratic Sen.] Paul Wellstone won without trying to be something other than what he was. Maybe it’s time we had a Wellstone of the right.”