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Update: Tarryl Clark will run for Congress in Bachmann's district

Sen. Tarryl Clark has been telling people over recent days that she was heading that way, and now I'm confident that she will seek the DFL nomination for Congress to run for the seat held by arch-conservative Republican Michele Bachmann. I haven't been able to speak to Clark directly about it. But since I first posted this morning, I have spoken to more DFLers, with direct knowledge of her plans, who confirm that Clark is in the race for Congress and is assembling a campaign staff.


In response to my post this a.m., Clark authorized one of her political associates to convey this statement:

"Sen. Clark is not ready to formally announce her candidacy for Congress from the Sixth District, but recently she has spent a great deal of time meeting with political leaders and key donors in the Sixth and across the state. She’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she’s received. She knows how important it is to make a decision soon and wants to hit the ground running if she decides to run. She’ll formally announce her decision in the near future."

Clark, 47, of St. Cloud, is a lawyer, a DFL state senator and assistant majority leader. She has been mentioned for seemingly every recent political opening over the past two cycles and had been rumored to be thinking about the race for governor. But she will avoid that crowded field and instead enter the also-fairly-crowded field for DFL endorsement in the 6th.

Elwyn Tinklenberg, who has run in the 6th twice before and was the Dem nominee last time, is also preparing to run. Tinklenberg, a former mayor of Blaine and state transportation commissioner during the Ventura administration, lost an endorsement fight to Patty Wetterling in 2006 when the congressional seat was open. (Wetterling went on to lose to Bachmann.) Tinklenberg won the DFL endorsement and nomination in 2008 but his campaign did not catch fire nor receive much attention until close to Election Day when Bachmann's crazy statements about Barack Obama being "anti-American" brought tremendous attention to the race and big money to the Tinklenberg campaign. Bachmann still won, by 46-43 percent, with the Independence Party nominee receiving 10 percent.

Until Clark's entry, Tinklenberg had been presumed to be the likely Bachmann challenger for 2010. Tinklenberg has been criticized as a lacklustre campaigner, but some felt that if he had top national campaign help and stayed active for a full two-year cycle, he could improve. He has not announced that he will run again but he did hire Dana Houle, a national campaign operative who has helped Dem candidates defeat two House Repub incumbents in recent years.


“We’ve recently heard that  Tarryl Clark has changed her mind about running for govoernor and is now considering running for Congress. She hasn’t spoken to Elwyn, but we’ve heard the same rumors.”

[My question to Houle: Assuming Clark does get in, how does it change the race:]

“It would distract us from running full-time against Michele Bachmann, which would be unfortunate, but if we have to fight for the nomination, that’s what we’ll do.”

Dr. Maureen Reed, who was the Independence Party nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, has announced that she will seek endorsement by both the DFL and the Independence-ites for the seat. Reed, a physician and former chair of the U of M Board of Regents, is something of an untested politician but reported an impressive start to her fundraising. It's possible that if she fails to win the DFL endorsement, Reed could stay in the race representing the Independence Party. (Which means, given Clark's entry, it's possible this could be a three-way all-female contest.)

I spoke to Reed, who said Clark's entry would not change her plans in any way: "Our race is the same, regardless of who's in it." Reed will seek both endorsements. When I asked whether, if she loses the Dem endorsement, she would run in a primary, Reed said: "Plan A is to get the endorsement. Plan B is to make Plan A work."

After 2008, some DFLers concluded that if Bachmann couldn't be defeated in 2008, with Obama-mania elevating Dem turnout everywhere and with Bachmann creating a major embarrassment in the last days of the campaign, she might be unbeatable in the Repub-leaning district, at least until the district lines are redrawn, which will occur before the 2012 cycle. Clark apparently thinks otherwise. She will have to give up her state Senate seat to run for Congress, unless she is eliminated from the race in time to seek another Senate term.

Among the reasons Clark has been considered so promising in DFL circles is that in 2005, in a special election, she won that Senate seat in a district that had been solidly Republican, then held the seat by a double-digit margin in the regular 2006 election. Articulate and attractive, Clark has often been the public face of the Senate DFL caucus.

Clark is an abortion rights supporter, which will make it easier for her to attract national Democratic financial support (Emily's List?), but could complicate her chances in the 6th District, which is the most anti-abortion of Minnesota's congressional districts. The district stretches from St. Cloud/Stearns County on the west, arches acorss the north metro suburbs and exurbs, including parts of Anoka County, and reaches the Wisconsin border on the east (Stillwater and Washington counties).

Clark was encouraged to run by some Washington Democrats, who have grown skeptical of Tinklenberg's ability to win the seat.

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Comments (19)

This is a pretty definitive title, but a fairly vague post. Do you have any reason beyond speculation to be so sure?

She'd be stupid not to. It's a freebie (her Senate seat is safe, as it's not up the next election cycle) and she's set up when the district is redistricted out of existence.

This race will be interesting to watch. Anyone giving odds on whether Bachmann makes a run for Gov?

Maureen Reed has also thrown her hat in the ring - and she's already raised a fair amount of money.

If you were referring to Clark, and I understand you may have been referring to Bachmann, State senators will be running in the next two eletions, in 2010, and because of redistricting, in 2012. And of course, it's Bachmann's district that will in all likelihood, disappear if Minnesota loses a Congressional seat.

I would certainly like to see Tinklenberg drop out clearing the way for Clark. He lost a winnable race last time, so I don't see any particular reason why he should get another shot.

The sixth district is a tough seat to win, and would be a tough seat to hold if it continues to exist after the senate, but I do think Clark has a much better chance of winning than Tinklenberg. At least she hasn't proven she can lose against Bachmann.

Kevin - I think that's wrong; I'm pretty sure all Senators are up in 2010.

This decision seems crazy to me. If Reed runs a strong race, Clark is doomed. (Remember, the IP's motto is "electing conservative Republicans for nearly a tenth of a century.")

Also, this seat will likely be redistricted after 2010 - why not wait and see if the new district is more favorable?

As if conservative isn't an indictment enough, Mr. Black needs to refer to Ms. Bachman as an "arch-conservative"? He writes, "Clark, 47, of St. Cloud, is a lawyer, a DFL state senator and assistant majority leader." Why, no where in the article, is Clark referred to as liberal or as a liberal? In fact, no where in the article is the word liberal even used. Interesting, eh?

Maureen Reed is running as a DFLer.

Dan, fair point! Though Reed is actually seeking the DFL AND Independence party endorsements.

I know Tinklenberg pulled this off -- though it didn't stop the Independence ballot line from being filled by a spoiler.

The question is, if Reed is denied DFL endorsement, will she still run as an IPer?

And more importantly, since the Independence Party will fill the ballot line (basically state law), who will that candidate be?

Mr. Tinklenberg had both the DFL and Independence party endorsements but MN state law prevents a single person to be listed on the ballot in more than one location. So at the last minute, a person entered the race and showed up on the primary ballot. If he voted for himself, he was then on the election ballot. Some people do not pay attention to the lead-up and simply vote the party line (Independence party in this case) and some voters say I think that both the top two parties are the problem and then vote independence party. In both cases the people are not holding up their responsibility for voting with is to be informed and making an educated vote. But this "I'm feed up and will show it by voting neither of the top two parties" usually ends up being a vote for the least preferred person becoming a "non-representative" rather than the preferred person becoming a "representative".

It was Saint Cloud that pushed the election to Bachmann.

"It was Saint Cloud that pushed the election to Bachmann."

Bachmann did not win a single precinct in Saint Cloud. Based on voting data at, her concentrations of support were Elk River, Big Lake, Ramsey, Ham Lake, St. Michael and Andover.

David, comment #10 you refer to me as a spoiler but no one was forced to vote for me. I think you have to realise that there are allot of voters that are dissatisfied with the other two parties and all the money being spent on a two year term. I feel if the media would take an Independence Party candidate serious in the beginning and spend a little time getting to know us before election night,the voters would know more about us and we may have a better chance, or your candidate might have a better chance. We seem to only be significant on election night when we get blamed for your candidates loss. Bob Anderson

Ms. Clark's primary occupation as a state senator has been that of mouthpiece for Senator Pogemiller. It will be hard to differentiate her views from those she has been articulating for Senator Pogemiller. Her short career and instant rise to Assistant Majority leader should be of benefit as she has little record to examine. Her chances are certainly better than Mr. Tinklenberg's as his money supply won't likely be as great this time around.

Mr. Black:

The Independence Party nominee who earned 10% and spent very little money to do it(while of course the DFL and Republican nominees could not shovel it in fast enought) is Bob Anderson.

Don't look for any candidate to get cross endorsed this time. The person who gets endorsed by the IP will be the person who actually wants to use its ballot line.

"Ms. Clark's primary occupation as a state senator has been that of mouthpiece for Senator Pogemiller." If this is the case, then how in the world can she be construed to be at all a moderate? According to numerous sources, Pogemiller has been quoted as saying, "I think it's simplistic and naive to say people can spend their money better than the government...The notion that everybody can individually spend their money better than government I, I just think is trite, wrongheaded and anti-democratic." Chris Henjum, those are NOT moderate beliefs.


You are so right, the system is rigged for two parties. And that is the problem. The two parties in power have rigged the system for the perpetuation of their own power. These freedom loving parties have constricted democracy.

The IP is for its expansion.

Never in its history has an IP candiate split the liberal vote. The IP is a centrist party and so are its candidates.

I'm also so sick and tired of the DFL (Don't Fault Liberals) whining about the IP everytime they lose a three way race. Perhaps Ellison, Klobachar, and Franken have some secret sauce they would like to share?

To win this race (and it is clearly winnable), the Democratic candidate will have to get the endorsement of the Independant Party as well. Then it should be a lock to defeat Bachmann and lift the district out of the Bizarro World.

In the past, Bachmann has won with LESS than a majority of the votes due to the three way split; this time the DFL has to find a way to get the IP on their side.

All state senate seats will be on 2010 ballot, so Senator Clark needs to make her decision with that in consideration.

Say - why doesn't the IP run Mark Kennedy for his old seat in 2010??