A story in Roll Call looks back on Michele Bachmann’s years in the Minnesota Senate, and how her first venture into politics — not that long ago, really, 2001-2006 in the Legislature, before being elected to Congress — set the stage for the current presidential foray:
Rewind 10 years, when the mother of five [and foster mother of 23!] began her legislative career in the state Senate. Bachmann’s political persona was a more extreme, less polished version of what Iowa voters see today, according to interviews with her supporters, adversaries and state Senate colleagues who knew her then. They described her as a legislative loner and party antagonist with a keen ability to summon crowds to her cause.
The story includes a cutting quote from Gary Laidig, the veteran Republican state Senator she defeated in the party primary in 2000, and who says he was ambushed by Bachmann at the endorsing convention:
“Michele Bachmann is the most dishonest, most deceitful person I’ve ever met in my life,” Laidig told Roll Call. “She truly is a girl scout with a switchblade knife.”
A lot of her energy in the Legislature went toward anti-gay marriage legislation:
After her re-election [in 2002], Bachmann focused her legislative priorities on hot-button social issues, including her years-long quest to put a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on the ballot.
There were a few exceptions, such as Bachmann’s support for the stringent Taxpayer Bill of Rights and her push for a state exemption to the No Child Left Behind Act. She signed on to legislation promoting cell phone consumer rights. She also supported the development of personal rapid transit, balloon-shaped “pod” cars that move people on monorail tracks through congested areas.
But Bachmann focused most of her time in the Legislature on the same-sex marriage amendment. Minnesota had outlawed same-sex marriage already, but after the Massachusetts Supreme Court overturned a similar law in November 2003, Bachmann wanted to ensure the state Constitution included the ban too.
Only this year, did her early work pay off and the newly elected Republican-controlled Legislature got the amendment onto the ballot for the 2012 election.
Even in those years she was butting heads with then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty:
“Were they bosom buddies? No. Did they dislike each other? No, I don’t think so,” former Republican Party Chairman Ron Eibensteiner said. “Sometimes, as governor, when you have a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate, you have to compromise a bit. And Michele is uncompromising, and she can be, because she’s a state Senator.”
…But longtime Republican legislator Warren Limmer, a Bachmann ally in the state Senate, said he never sensed tension between Bachmann and Pawlenty.
“Tim would be focused more on the leadership of caucuses rather than the rank and file,” Limmer said.
After all, Bachmann and Pawlenty had very different roles in the Republican Party and in state government. Bachmann could afford to be an adversarial legislator, especially while her party was in the minority.
“The first time she’s really been in the majority is the last seven months,” Seifert said. “I think legislators like Michele Bachmann thrive in the minority.”