A couple of things are clear about Tarryl Clark’s announcement over the weekend that she’s going to run for Congress again — but this time in what is now the 8th Congressional District against U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack.
1. Clark wants nothing to do with running against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann — or running in the 6th Congressional District — again. Despite getting tons of traditional DFL support, despite raising more than $5 million, Clark was shellacked by 13 points in November.
2. Her decision to take aim at Cravaack obviously was no spur-of-the-moment deal. This was one carefully rolled out start to a new campaign.
On Saturday, she conducted an interview with a reporter from the Duluth New Tribune saying not only is she planning to run against Cravaack, but that she’s buying a condo in Duluth where she plans to spend “a good chunk of time.”
On Sunday, she released a slick YouTube video, explaining that “she can’t sit back and watch this happen to seniors and the middle class.”
“This,” as Clark sees it, is exploitation by Republicans, Wall Street and big oil executives. She does not mention Cravaack in the video.
Clark’s decision to run in the 8th isn’t exactly stunning political news. There have been rumors that she might switch to the 8th ever since some of the DFL’s potentially strongest 8th District candidates — former Rep. Tony Sertich and state Sen. Tony Lourey — took themselves out of the running.
But her decision to run doesn’t mean that she’s got the DFL nomination locked up. Far from it.
Clark, who lives in St. Cloud and will maintain her home there, was the fair-haired party choice to run against Bachmann.
Looking for candidates
The DFL is desperate to take this seat back from Cravaack, who ended the party’s 64-year hold on the seat when he ended Jim Oberstar’s 36-year Congressional career in November.
The further we’ve come from that election, the more DFLers are blaming Oberstar for the loss. Yes, there was the huge Republican wave in 2010. Still, DFLers say, Oberstar ran an indifferent campaign against Cravaack, an unknown until November. Oberstar, DFLers say, forgot to come home often enough from Washington.
Clark’s potentially big, big problem among DFLers will be proving that a condo in Duluth really makes her a part of the sweat and iron-ore dust of 8th District political lore.
Members of the U.S. House aren’t required to live in their districts, but it’s pretty tough to say you ought to represent people you don’t live with.
Still, had Clark merely stayed put in St. Cloud, there’s a chance, through redistricting, that her home would have placed her in the fringes of the district. (Remember, Cravaack’s residence is barely at the edge of the district.)
But even though the Republican-dominated redistricting committee is releasing its version of what the state’s Congressional districts today, there’s little chance this version will be agreed on by DFLers or by Gov. Mark Dayton. That means it could be almost a year before the courts decide what district seats will look like for the 2012 election.
Clark clearly couldn’t wait for a final map drawing before entering.
Cravaack has shown that a suburbanite — and a newcomer — can win in the 8th. Long before Cravaack knocked off Oberstar, Republican Party chairman Tony Sutton noted that there had been a substantial population shift in the 8th from the Iron Range and Duluth to the suburbs in the Chisago Lakes area.
The new census showed that population shift has continued. And, in some ways, Clark fits this new 8th. She’s moderate in her style, has a soccer mom appeal.
Still, it’s far from clear whether the DFL in the 8th can support someone who is so far removed from the mines.
In the News Tribune article about Clark’s decision to enter the race (and buy the condo in Duluth), the 8th District DFL chairman, Don Bye, offered a mild welcome to the 8th District race.
“She will be one of the most serious candidates,” he said.
Other potential candidates
There are a handful of other potential candidates, most of whom have not made their intentions clear.
For example, Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon recently said that a number of people in the 8th have asked her to run, but she said she hasn’t made a decision yet.
A newcomer, Rep. Carly Melin, who replaced Sertich in the House in a special election only a few months ago, is from Hibbing and could excite the old Ranger crowd. Though only 29 years old, Melin, who served on Sertich’s staff, knows politics and already has shown doesn’t mind a rumble.
For her part, Clark believes that DFLers aren’t going to worry about deep ties to traditional places as they are about winning the seat back.
“You know last year was a tsunami that saw an awful lot of big interests putting money in to mislead people,” Clark told the Duluth paper. “I believe right now that people are seeing what these more extreme people are up to.”
Clark said this race will be far less costly than her race against Bachmann. Presumably, leftover funds from that race are allowing her to kick off this race with a slick video and a staff.