WASHINGTON — Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has announced she will not run for re-election to her 6th District House seat in 2014, though she said her prospects for being re-elected and the investigations into her former presidential campaign had no impact on her decision.
She made the announcement in a video sent to supporters overnight:
Bachmann, 57, said her decision was not influenced by a potential rematch with DFLer Jim Graves, who came within 4,300 votes of Bachmann last election, or by the legal and ethics inquiries into her presidential campaign and its staffers. The FBI, the Federal Elections Commission, congressional ethics officers and officials in Iowa are said to be investigating potential campaign finance violations connected to the campaign and its staffers.
“It was clearly understood that compliance with all rules and regulations was an absolute necessity for my presidential campaign, and I have no reason to believe that that was not the case,” she said in the video.
In fact, Bachmann didn’t give a formal reason for retiring, except to say that she considered four terms in the U.S. House enough. Even though there aren’t term limits for members of Congress, she said, presidents are only allowed to serve for eight years, and, “in my opinion, well, eight years is also long enough an individual to serve as representative for a specific congressional district.”
“I am confident that this is the right decision,” she said. “For some, a single two-year House term is enough service. For others, ten terms, or two decades in the House, is still not enough service.”
Bachmann said she considered retiring last year after ending her presidential campaign, except that, with only nine months to go before the election, she was worried a new Republican candidate wouldn’t have enough time to pull together a campaign.
“I refuse to allow this decision to put this Republican seat in jeopardy,” she said. “And so I ran, and I won.”
The video will probably be the last word from Bachmann today. She’s reportedly on a congressional trip to Russia, and a spokesman otherwise declined comment.
Bachmann seemed prepared to run for re-election to her House seat in 2014, raising nearly $700,000 during the first three months of 2013 and actively seeking more from her deep small-dollar donor base, especially after Graves announced his second challenge to her. She even purchased a round of television ads after the House passed her bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act on May 16, an usually early ad buy for a congressional candidate.
But there were strong indications that, after her narrow victory in 2012, national Democrats would redouble their efforts against Bachmann next year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had indicated it would help Graves, and liberal superPACs were lining up to challenge Bachmann’s candidacy.
“I think that she’s read the tea leaves,” Graves told KARE 11 Wednesday morning. He said he thinks voters in the 6th District are looking for someone with business experience who understands the economy.
“Nothing really changes at all for our messaging,” he said. “We were running for the people, not against Michele Bachmann anyway.”
Though Bachmann is a favorite among conservatives and Tea Party groups, she underperformed with the electorate at large, relative to the deeply conservative 6th district — Mitt Romney won the district by more than 15 percent in 2012, while Bachmann won by just 1.3 percent. Last week, the Graves campaign put out an internal poll showing a statistically-tied race between the two.
In her video, Bachmann listed a string of accomplishments from her time in the House, from local issues like securing federal approval to build a new bridge over the St. Croix River to leading national conservatives’ efforts against the Obama administration.
Between now and the end of her term, “I will continue to work vehemently and robustly to fight back against what most in the other party want to do to transform our country into becoming,” she said.
Bachmann didn’t indicate what she’ll do after retiring from the House, though she didn’t rule out a return to politics in the future.
“Looking forward after the completion of my term, my future is full, it is limitless and my passions for America will remain,” she said. “I want you to be assured that there is no future option or opportunity, be it directly in the political arena or otherwise, that I won’t be giving serious consideration, if it can help save and protect our great nation for future generations.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry