Bachmann Challenger Jim Graves Sits Down to Discuss Bipartisanship, Business and the Basics
Once considered a long shot to knock off Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican stalwart in Minnesota’s conservative Sixth Congressional District, businessman Jim Graves is making headlines by keeping the race close.
An admittedly Democratic poll shows Jim Graves, a St. Cloud native and Minneapolis-based hotel magnate, is no longer the long shot people once thought he was.
The Democrat who stepped up to challenge Rep. Michelle Bachmann in the steeply conservative Sixth Congressional District has brought his campaign into the national spotlight, earning recognition (but not cash) from the “Red to Blue” campaign conducted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
But Graves still trails in money raised, is behind in most other major polls and can't match Bachmann's political experience. And he is not the typical DFL candidate. He has voiced his opinion against facets of the so-called “Obamacare,” and is widely critical of the “Invest in America” program the president passed his first term.
Yet, he did embrace DFL platform issues in order to earn the endorsement last spring, something that will hut him in this predominantly “Red” area.
Graves stopped in Albertville recently for a discussion with St. Michael Patch.
St. Michael Patch: This is your first campaign, ever, for an elected office. What’s the one thing you’ve noticed out on the campaign trail in the Sixth District?
Jim Graves: I think people are really excited at the possibility that they’ll have a person who will represent this district. They’re looking for someone to listen to their stories, and someone who can relate to them. That’s the one thing the people in the Sixth District have really been missing. And those are the people I’m doing this for. I’ve really enjoyed getting on the ground and talking with people, listening to those concerns people have, and I think people find that refreshing. Walking into a pharmacy or a café and talking with people is really a lot of fun.
Patch: You’ve built a successful corporation and one of Minneapolis’ go-to spots. Why public office? And why now?
Graves: There’s a void, and it needed to be filled. I think there needs to be reason, calm and civility in government. We don’t have that right here, right now. I think there’s a general feeling that Minnesota could do better. And that with moderation and reason, you can get real things done for real people.
Patch: You consider yourself an outsider. Can a non-partisan person get something done in a Congress that is essentially polarized to both sides?
Graves: I’ve been able to do a lot of things people said weren’t possible. I graduated high school and put myself through college. I started a business with myself and a typewriter. You’ll have a lot of people tell you that you can’t. And I understand that. But I’ve got the skill set, I think, that’s needed to bring businesses and people together. I’ve been able to do that wherever I’ve gone, and I think I can do that in Washington.
Patch: A lot of business owners see government as the problem. Why join the enemy?
Graves: You have people across the Sixth District who see government as the problem, but there are parts of government that are there to solve problems. I think you need to find that balance. I’m not delusional here. I know I’ll be one voice in hall with more than 300 members. But become a part of the solution. Use your soap box effectively, not to create division. Find the middle ground: we all want job growth; we all want to drive economy to the middle; we all want to grow small business and help them achieve.
Patch: How does government grow an economy? Isn’t that the private sector’s job? Shouldn’t government get out of the way?
Graves: You need to create an environment where people feel good about investing in the future. That hasn’t been done. Let banks use their resources. Strengthen amenities like education and infrastructure. The Eisenhower administration took a huge risk with the freeway system. We need to find the next big project. Every day, people on Main Street are talking about red tape and regulation, get away from that and drive the economy to the next big project.
Patch: Can a DFL-endorsed candidate win in a district that is steeply Christian Conservative? All people have to do is look at the last four elections to see Wright County, Sherburne County and others are very GOP favorable.
Graves: I think people, in talking to me, find that I have a lot in common with Christians. I’m a Christian. I live by the Golden Rule. I think we have a lot more in common than we are apart. So I want to find that common ground. In talking to people I find they have a real comfort level with that.
Patch: I know your business has brought you face-to-face with Rep. Bachmann. How does she stack up as an opponent now?
Graves: I have a tremendous amount of respect for Rep. Bachmann and what she’s done to build a network here in the Sixth District and around the country. I commend her for that. But I think our biggest success is that we can bring the truth to the table. I’ve always done that. I realize I’m the underdog. But I’m very tenacious.
Patch: Rep. Bachmann has said, a couple of times, she looks forward to debates with you as the race moves forward. Are you ready for that?
Graves: I’m looking forward to it. I think, in discussing ideas and my hopes for the Sixth District with the people here, I’ve had a favorable reaction. I’m excited to discuss those ideas with Rep. Bachmann in front of those people. The Sixth District needs a salesperson in Washington. Someone to be their voice. I think this is an opportunity to give back for all that I’ve been given.
Editor's Note: St. Michael Patch has also reached out to the Bachmann campaign for a 1-on-1 interview with Congresswoman, and hopes to have that arranged prior to November's election.
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