MINNEAPOLIS – U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has announced she’s not running for re-election while she’s campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, but the 2012 political calendar makes it easy for her to change her mind.
If she stumbles in the primaries, state law would allow her to discontinue her presidential campaign and file for re-election to the House by June 5, 2012. That could discourage other Minnesota candidates.
“It’s too early to speculate on potential candidates because we have to wait to see how the presidential campaign goes,” said Tony Sutton, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota.
On Monday night, Bachmann announced she was running for president had her campaign said she was no longer actively seeking re-election in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.
The June 5, 2012, deadline falls well after the key early presidential nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina; but it’s before the Republican National Convention in August in Florida.
Sutton said Republicans assume they will know their party’s presumptive nominee for president by late March or early April, which is when he expected the 6th District race to clear up.
On the Democratic side, Tarryl Clark, who lost to Bachmann in 2010, has already announced plans to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in the 8th District in northeastern Minnesota.
Further discouraging Republican contenders from the entering the race too soon could be the fact that under federal rules Bachmann can roll money from her presidential campaign into her congressional campaign.
There are some restrictions, said FEC spokeswoman Mary Brandenberger. The big one is that contributors can’t exceed federal maximums for the election cycle by giving to both campaigns, she said.
Pat Turgeon, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota secretary of state, said state law prevents a major party candidate from running for president and Congress in Minnesota at the same time.
Other candidates for the Republican nomination don’t have that problem. Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, for one, could run for the House and the presidency thanks to a law written for President Lyndon Johnson.
The ongoing redistricting process further complicates the race for the 6th District, which currently runs from the Wisconsin border, through the northern Twin Cities suburbs and northwest beyond St. Cloud.
Because all of Minnesota congressional districts must have the same number of residents, the 6th District needs to shrink by about 100,000 people. No one knows where the all the legislative boundaries will end up.
“We’re going to have to see more happen on redistricting before we see which candidates are going to run,” said Kay Wolsborn a political science professor at the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University.
The district now leans Republican, but Wolsborn said she expects the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton won’t be able to agree on new district lines and the matter will go to the courts.
If Bachmann moves up, Sutton said he expected several high-profile Republicans would run for her old seat. “It’s a pretty good district, a pretty good Republican district even if you take 100,000 out of it,” he said.