Jim Graves at a news conference. (Glen Stubbe / Associated…)
WASHINGTON -- With Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann opting against a reelection bid, the Democrat who nearly unseated her last November and was gunning for her again is now out of the race too.
Jim Graves, a St. Cloud businessman, told the local website MinnPost that with the polarizing conservative choosing not to run -- perhaps out of fear she might lose -- his feeling was “mission accomplished.”
“She wasn’t representing the people of the 6th District appropriately, and now she won’t be representing them. There’s no way anyone could run and win who would be worse than Michele Bachmann. So we accomplished that task,” he said.
That’s a turnaround from Wednesday, when he told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that he still intended to run. “It’s a very winnable race against anybody,” he said then. “We weren’t really running against Michele Bachmann as much as we were running for the people in the district and the country. And we’re going to continue that same approach.”
Minnesota’s 6th District is the most Republican of the state’s eight congressional districts, but Graves came within just 4,200 votes of defeating Bachmann last November. Political handicappers viewed her exit as good news for the Republicans because a new candidate would run without the same baggage.
Graves said Wednesday that he thought a wide-open Republican primary, though, would lead candidates to run hard to the right, leaving an opening for him with moderate Republicans and independent voters.
He told MinnPost Thursday night that his decision now to drop out was shaped by conversations with family and friends, and the realization that support from national Democrats and liberal groups would be less likely without Bachmann.
“I was just the guy who was running against her,” he said. “I’m humble enough to realize that.”
An official announcement from Graves was to come later Friday.
Winning Republican-leaning seats like the Minnesota 6th is a necessity, though, if Democrats are to pick up the 17 seats needed to win back control of the House of Representatives. In part because of a redistricting process that favored the GOP in most states, there are few Republicans sitting in centrist or Democratic-leaning seats for the party to target.
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