Perhaps the biggest challenge that Tom Emmer will face as a Republican candidate for Congress in the 6th District is running a campaign that will meet the high expectations he already faces.
Even with no other announced candidates, Emmer enters as the front-runner in the contest for the Republican endorsement to succeed four-term Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who said she would not seek re-election in 2014.
“I’m running for Congress to change the culture in Washington and restore Americans’ trust in our government,” Emmer told a group of about 100 supporters gathered Wednesday in his hometown of Delano, a Wright County community in the conservative heart of the 6th District. “Let’s get excessive regulation and taxes out of the way.”
He likely will face competition for the Republican endorsement, which he said he would respect.
State Sen. John Pederson of St. Cloud said he intends to file as a candidate by the end of the month. Former legislator Phil Krinkie, a 16-year legislator who now is president of the Taxpayers Leauge of Minnesota, and state Rep. Matt Dean have said they’re considering entering the contest.
However, Emmer, a former three-term state representative and the GOP nominee who lost to Gov. Mark Dayton in 2010, already has a base to build on.
“From the minute Bachmann got out, Emmer was in very strong position,” said political consultant Michael Brodkorb.
“He has a donor file, access to major fundraisers and the ability to pull together a team quickly,” he said. “He lost a very close race for governor. It will make him a disciplined and hungry candidate who will assemble a team that will put him in a position to win.”
Emmer’s advantage as a seasoned campaigner is also his liability.
DFL Party Chair Ken Martin was quick to point that out in a statement: “In Emmer’s unsuccessful 2010 run for governor, he drained Republican Party resources and turned off the party’s major donor community. Many attribute his Ron Paul- and Sarah Palin-backed candidacy to sending Republican and independent votes Tom Horner’s way.”
The battle scars may have been worth it, according to Brodkorb.
“Tom did well in the 6th when he ran for governor,” he said. “This is an absolutely different kind of race, but Emmer comes in with an appreciation of knowing where he’s going to hit.”
At his announcement, Emmer did away with one likely controversy. He indicated he would be leaving his job as a host on talk-radio station KTCN. “I think it’s better that I do this full time, sooner. If you’re offering to do a job it seems to me that you should devote your full time to the job,” he said.
And the job of running for Congress from the 6th district will be a marathon, not a sprint.
With businessman Jim Graves’ recent decision not to run again for the seat, there is no declared DFL candidate at this point. However, there has been an explosion of statements and announcements from other likely and potential Republican candidates.
With the election nearly 18 months away, the race has barely begun.