Pastor Barb Davis White is carrying around one of the biggest political secrets in the country.
“I’m going to beat Keith Ellison,” said the Republican-endorsed candidate for the 5th Congressional District Seat. “He’s told people he doesn’t have an opponent and I want him to keep thinking that because right now, I’m working underground.”
In fact, one of Davis White’s first duties will be to convince her own party that it should invest any time or money in her campaign in a district that has been DFL country since 1963.
“I want to say that I pray that the state party hears our cry in the 5th District,” she said. “I want them to know that the 5th is the center of everything that happens in Minnesota. I want them to know that the people in the district know me well so the state party should come and smell the roses.”
Davis White isn’t the only Republican congressional candidate facing a very steep climb this year. Despite the fact that Minnesota is supposed to be less blue from years past, despite the fact that Sen. Norm Coleman seems to be in solid shape in his Senate race, the Republican candidates in four congressional districts face odds similar to Davis White’s.
In the 4th District, people have been voting for Democrats since 1948 and Betty McCollum is seeking her fifth term. Opposing her will be little-known Ed Matthews. DFLer Collin Peterson, a nine-termer, has a stranglehold on the 7th District, where he will face Glen Menze, who was hammered by Peterson eight years ago. The Republicans don’t even have an endorsed candidate to run against 17-term incumbent Jim Oberstar.
To make matters more difficult for the state party, it faces stiff competition even in districts once considered safe. DFLer Tim Walz snatched a victory from six-term incumbent Gil Gutknecht two years ago and now seems stronger than ever in the 1st District. In the 2nd , Steve Sarvi is expected to make Republicans and John Kline sweat for a fourth term. In the 6th, DFLer Elwyn Tinklenberg is moderate enough to give Michele Bachmann a strong run.
Then there’s the 3rd. Controlled by the Republicans for a half-century, this will end up being a race drawing national attention as Rep. Erik Paulsen tries to hold onto Jim Ramstad’s seat for the Republicans against Ashwin Madia, a full-of-energy upstart who seems to excite all who meet him.
Even Davis White is impressed by Madia, whom she describes as “charismatic.”
Plenty of spirit
The state party will have to devote most of its limited resources to those four races, meaning there’ll be little more than a pat on the back for people like Davis White, Matthews and Menze.
“With the exception of the 8th, the GOP has candidates who are running very spirited campaigns,” is how Mark Drake, communications director for the party spins the situation.
Certainly, Davis White has spirit.
“I believe in less government, more business,” said the woman who stepped down from the pulpit at Light Foundational Ministry in September so she could campaign full time.
She first was interested in running in the 3rd District, where she lived until recently. She says she’s now moved into Minneapolis with one of her grown children.
“I visited the 3rd but they were looking for someone to run in the 5th,” she said. “Someone said to me, ‘You should run.’ I said, ‘Don’t mind if I do.’ ”
The daughter of a white Jewish mom and a black Catholic father, she grew up in Minneapolis, graduating from North High in 1972. She points out she is the ex-daughter-in-law of the late Harry Davis.
“With my background there’s nowhere in Minneapolis I can’t go and be comfortable,” she said.
She’s preached all over the world and says she worked with some of the most downtrodden people in the city at Light Foundational Ministry.
“I tell people what we did at Light is work with broken people who walked out of there on their own two feet,” she said. “We made it possible for fathers to go and get jobs so they could take care of their families.”
That’s the kind of work she’d do in the Congress, she said. She’d free business of burdensome taxes and regulations — and finally freed, business would employ people.
That sort of message got her ovations at an anti-tax rally at the Capitol recently. She didn’t just talk about her opposition to taxes, but she also held a light bulb aloft and told the crowd, “The government can’t be telling us what kind of light bulbs we can buy.”
That, too, got a big ovation from the gathering.
But an anti-tax rally at the Capitol might be a bit different than a debate in the 5th. Isn’t her message a tad on the conservative side for the state’s most liberal district?
“I have conservative views,” she said. “I want less government, more business. But I’m not going to be in anyone’s bedroom.”
Well, at least not in the bedrooms of any married, pro-life, heterosexual couples.
She’s strongly pro-life. She even more strongly convinced that marriage is for a man and a woman.
“That’s the way of God,” she said.
She thinks people have come to realize that Ellison is “too liberal.”
“He’s for things like a Department of Peace,” she said, contemptuously. “That’s what I call the dope department. A country is ready to mandate peace only when it’s strong.”
She’s done the math on the district and, for some reason, feels confident. Two years ago, she points out, Ellison received “only” 56 percent of the vote, while Republican Alan Fine and Independent Tammy Lee each got 21 percent.
“This year, I don’t think an Independent is running,” she said. “I get the Republican vote, I get the Independent vote.”
That still seems a little shy of what she’d need. But, she says, Ellison will lose some votes because there will be tighter controls at the polls this year.
“We might have poll watchers who say, ‘You got to stand up straight, be sober and be able to read the ballot,”’ she said.
Plus, she said, she will attract black voters.
“Some say this is an impossible dream,” she said. “But Keith hasn’t even met our campaign yet. When he does, he’s going to realize he’s in trouble.”