Bachmann re-elected; early edge for Oberstar, Walz

Published 11:03 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS  — Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann was re-elected Tuesday, holding off an aggressive challenge by Democrat Tarryl Clark in what became the most expensive U.S. House race nationwide.

The two other House incumbents seen as most vulnerable, Democratic Reps. Jim Oberstar in northeastern Minnesota and Tim Walz in southern Minnesota, were both leading in early returns. Four other incumbents were easily re-elected: Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum in St. Paul and Keith Ellison in Minneapolis, and Republican Reps. Erik Paulsen and John Kline, both from the Twin Cities suburbs. Heavily favored Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson in northwestern Minnesota was also ahead in early returns.

With 48 percent of precincts reporting in the suburban Twin Cities-and-St. Cloud area 6th District, Bachmann had 52 percent of the vote to Clark’s 40 percent. The Independence Party candidate, Bob Anderson, had 6 percent.

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“Your voice was heard overwhelmingly at the ballot box tonight, and the question is, will the politicians in D.C. stand with you or continue to stand for big government and bureaucracy?” Bachmann said in her victory speech at Republican election headquarters in Bloomington. “Any day of the week, I would stand with you. Thank you for letting me stand with you.”

Bachmann and Clark raised more than $15 million between them, most by Bachmann, a tea party favorite who cultivated a national base in part through frequent appearances on national cable shows. Clark tried to turn that to an advantage by attacking Bachmann as more concerned with her ambition than her constituents.

In the St. Paul suburb of Woodbury, at the district’s east end, Scott Blazek said he voted for Bachmann because he felt the federal government moved too far left the last two years.

“It’s not so much a vote against the Democrats,” said Blazek, 50, a cancer patient on Social Security disability. “It’s a vote against their platform. It’s not just one or two issues. It’s the whole thing.”

In the nearby suburb of Afton, 24-year-old unemployed security consultant Danielle Gagner said she would have voted for anyone who ran against Bachmann.

In northeastern Minnesota, Democrat Oberstar has never gotten less than 59 percent of the vote, and had a long history of bringing largesse to the district even before he became House transportation chairman. But former Navy pilot Chip Cravaack built momentum by portraying Oberstar as out of touch with the district and complicit in federal overspending.

Walz’s district is a swing district with a recent history of turning out incumbents. Walz rode to office on a Democratic wave in 2006 by ousting a 12-year Republican incumbent. State Rep. Randy Demmer was trying to sweep the 1st District back into GOP hands.