ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Two more Democrats moved Thursday to challenge U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, adding to a suddenly crowded field interested in trying to unseat the state’s highest-profile Republican.
Stillwater-area businessman Brian McGoldrick and Minneapolis hotelier Jim Graves joined previously announced candidate Anne Nolan as hopefuls in the race. McGoldrick and Nolan, a non-practicing attorney and workplace consultant from St. Cloud, both plan to seek the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s endorsement at the April 14 district convention in Blaine.
McGoldrick said he would fold his bid if he isn’t endorsed. Nolan said she would also drop out if not endorsed, provided the endorsement is made at the district convention and not deferred until later. Graves filed exploratory papers and said in a statement he hadn’t made a final decision about running.
McGoldrick, who lives in Washington County’s May Township, launched a series of photography-related businesses starting in his early 20s and sold them off in the 1990s. He’s since worked in real estate development and also owns a marina and restaurant on White Bear Lake. He’s never run for office or been active in politics, and said he’s likely to use at least part of his own finances for his campaign.
“I can see that the most important issue for our residents right now is jobs,” McGoldrick said. He accused Bachmann of doing nothing to bring jobs to the district and also swiped at her Republican presidential bid: “I know Minnesota’s 6th District isn’t located somewhere down in Iowa.”
A spokesman for Bachmann did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Nolan, who joined the race two weeks ago, said an economic message about jobs and home foreclosures would be central to her campaign as well.
“We’ve got so many people underwater in their mortgages in this district,” said Nolan, who has lost two previous state House races. “The real estate crash has hit this district terribly. It’s a great opportunity to talk about economic issues.”
Graves is chief executive of Graves Global Hospitality, a company with holdings that include the Graves 601 Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. Graves lives outside the district in south Minneapolis. He isn’t required to live in the district — Bachmann, in fact, now lives outside the 6th thanks to redistricting — but a statement announcing his campaign took pains to stress his St. Cloud roots.
Graves was born and raised there, and serves as a trustee at St. Benedict’s College in St. Joseph. His statement said he had “created hundreds of jobs” beginning with his roots as an entrepreneur in St. Cloud.
“He’s got St. Cloud in his DNA,” Donald McFarland, a spokesman, said.
Whoever ends up as the Democratic candidate faces a tough challenge with Bachmann. First elected to Congress in 2006, she’s a proven fundraiser and polarizing figure who, while incurring the wrath of Democrats and liberals, has cultivated strong devotion from many Republicans and conservatives.
The 6th District, which stretches from suburbs north of the Twin Cities and reaches northwest to St. Cloud, was already the state’s most reliably Republican district before the recent congressional redistricting removed several political swing areas east of St. Paul and added several portions of strongly Republican Carver County.
The district’s voters are seen above all as socially conservative. It could prove a challenge for McGoldrick, who supports abortion rights and said he thinks gay marriage should be legal. Nolan, by contrast, opposes legalized abortion but said she would first support steps to reduce it. She stopped short of endorsing gay marriage but said her views on the issue are “evolving, like President Obama.” Nolan said she does oppose the amendment on Minnesota’s November ballot to outlaw gay marriage in the state constitution.
While McGoldrick’s more liberal views could be a challenge in the general election, Nolan’s more conservative social stances could make it harder to land the DFL endorsement. She admitted to difficulty in raising funds from national political groups that traditionally support Democratic female candidates because of her views on abortion, but said she hopes to offset that by leaning on long-standing personal ties to organized labor groups.
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