So said GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy in an interview with Washington Post columnist David Broder in July of this year. Broder was trying to pigeonhole Kennedy—a small-town certified public accountant, three-term House member and the Republican nominee for the Senate in Minnesota—as a lap dog for President Bush. Kennedy (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 92%) didn’t take the bait. While he frequently votes with his fellow Republican at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, he has also disagreed with Bush, notably when he voted against the President’s “No Child Left Behind” federal education plan.
Kennedy’s values and views are out there in his voting record and in the plain-spoken way he answers questions at Kiwanis luncheons, Lions’ and Optimists’ breakfasts, and when fans stop him as he marches in parades throughout the Gopher State. He supports the troops in Iraq (“Iraq is important to winning the War on Terror”), tax cuts (“They’ve created more than five million new jobs in five years”) and keeping spending under control (“That’s another area in which I obviously disagree with the administration”). He backs the House bill on border security (“Something’s wrong with us if we can’t control our own destiny as a nation”) and, in his own words, is “100% pro-life.” Asked if he would ever vary his stand on that issue, Kennedy quickly remonstrates that “the concept of varying or retreating on that issue is inconceivable. You haven’t met my mother, have you?”
While Kennedy opponents have long tried to portray him as “outside the mainstream,” it doesn’t wash. In 2000, the first-time candidate unseated a Democratic incumbent from the House, and after two spirited re-election campaigns in which opponents spent a combined $2 million, he twice won with ease. Now, with Democratic-Farmer-Labor (Minnesota’s version of the Democratic Party) Sen. Mark Dayton retiring, Kennedy is the Republican nominee for his seat.
This time he faces Amy Klobuchar, two-term Hennepin County (Minneapolis) attorney and daughter of a popular sports reporter. The contrasts between the two are obvious: She is backed by the rabidly pro-abortion EMILY’s List and has called for repealing most of the Bush tax cuts. But the contrasts go deeper. As Kennedy puts it, “I’m a CPA and say so. She calls herself a prosecutor, but in eight years as county attorney, she never prosecuted a case. She regularly denounces lobbyists in Washington, but she herself was a lobbyist for 12 years and lobbied for clients such as Ford and MCI. And whatever her audiences’ view on Iraq—withdrawing troops, keeping troops in—she’ll say it.”
In a sense, this is the most powerful case for conservatives to rally to Mark Kennedy. Whatever the issue or whatever people think of him, he is who he is.