ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/WCCO) — The Democrat gearing up for a rematch against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann suspended his campaign Friday, proclaiming success in his goal to oust the polarizing conservative from Congress two days after she announced she wouldn’t seek re-election.
In an email message to supporters, Jim Graves, who narrowly lost to Bachmann last year, said he felt his primary goal of unseating Bachmann was complete even if she decided to step away voluntarily rather than face him in a rematch race.
“This was never about Jim Graves: this was about challenging the ineffective leadership and extremist ideology of Michele Bachmann,” Graves said.
Bachmann made her own announcement in a Web video on Wednesday in which she tried to head off speculation that she was stepping down to avoid another tight race or because of various ethics investigations surrounding her. She hasn’t spoken publicly about her decision since then.
Graves, who founded a hotel chain, narrowly lost to Bachmann in 2012. He had previously announced he would challenge Bachmann again next year if the incumbent opted to try for a fifth term. Her district is the most heavily Republican in Minnesota.
He told WCCO Wednesday that voters were tired of constant Bachmann controversies.
“There’s a little fatigue going on there with that same messaging going on and on and on being against the whole world,” Graves said. “I mean, how about going into Washington and really trying to get something done and find real solutions?”
Without a polarizing figure like Bachmann opposite him on the ticket, political experts, like the Humphrey Institute’s Larry Jacobs, predicted that Graves would find the task of raising money and converting GOP-leaning voters to his side more difficult.
“Campaign funders are like Wall Street investors: They like to put money in a winner. Graves all of a sudden looked like a far-fetched prospect against a candidate who did not have the baggage of Bachmann in a district that was solidly Republican and conservative,” Jacobs said.
Several Republicans are weighing a run. No other Democrats have emerged yet.
Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey said no matter whom his party chooses, the seat looks safe for the GOP.
“We have a really good chance for a Republican candidate to win that race in the general election in 2014, and apparently Jim Graves saw that as well. We agree with Jim Graves.”
But Minnesota Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin said his party won’t throw in the towel for an open seat.
“Although it’s a conservative district, with the right candidate this is a great opportunity for Democrats,” Martin said, adding that residents concerned about Bachmann shouldn’t let down their guard.
“They understand that if Republicans put forward another far-right, Tea Party candidate, it will be politics as usual for them,” he said.
Hamline University law professor David Schultz was surprised by Graves’ decision.
“I thought Jim Graves was in it to win, not just to put Michele Bachman out of office. But clearly this changes the entire dynamics of the 6th District,” Schultz said. “Because for a short period of time, it looked like Jim Graves was a favorite – now there’s no favorites. It’s a seat that’s still wide open but still favors Republicans at this point.”
Schultz also wondered about Grave’s motives.
“Usually you think people run for office with the idea that they have a different view on government or set of views on public policy. But the fact that after she drops out, he drops out, suggests his main goal was to get her out,” he said.
Heading into the 2014 campaign, Minnesota Democrats enjoy a 5 to 3 advantage over Republicans in the House delegation.
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