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Krinkie says he's in 6th District race
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Phil Krinkie's home in Shoreview is in the 4th Congressional District, but his legislative district includes portions of the 6th, which takes in northern Twin Cities suburbs and the St. Cloud area. (MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) Phil Krinkie, a GOP state representative with a penny-pinching reputation, on Friday joined a swelling field for Minnesota's 6th District congressional seat.

The scramble reflects the rare opportunity to go after an open seat in Congress. Incumbent Rep. Mark Kennedy is trying to trade up to the U.S. Senate next year.

Krinkie, who is known around the Capitol as "Dr. No" for his staunch opposition to government spending increases, is the latest Republican candidate to enter the race advertising his conservative credentials. Krinkie immediately sought to distinguish himself, circulating a letter with newspaper quotations citing him as "the most conservative member of the legislature" and the "legislature's leading fiscal conservative."

"I think there's some people in the race that might want to tout that they're more socially conservative," said Krinkie, chairman of the House Taxes Committee and owner of a St. Paul furnace company. "My intent is not to cast myself in any light than what I've been during my 14 years in the Legislature."

Krinkie joins Republican candidates Michele Bachmann, a state senator from Stillwater who's been the Legislature's most vocal critic of gay marriage, and state Rep. Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Cheri Pierson Yecke, the former state education chief and another outspoken conservative, is expected to announce her candidacy on Sunday.

Jay Esmay, a Cold Spring businessman and local Republican Party co-chairman, also said this week that he's in the race.

On the Democratic side, children's safety advocate Patty Wetterling, who ran for the 6th District seat last year, said on Friday that she's focusing on a U.S. Senate bid but didn't rule out another run for Congress. Other Democratic possibilities include Stillwater attorney Ted Thompson and St. Cloud Mayor John Ellenbecker.

Krinkie's home in Shoreview is in the 4th Congressional District, but his legislative district includes portions of the 6th, which takes in northern Twin Cities suburbs and the St. Cloud area. Krinkie said he owns a home in Lino Lakes in the 6th District, and plans to move there soon.

Between Krinkie and Bachmann, the claim can be made that the race now features both the Legislature's most fiscally conservative and socially conservative members. While the 6th District leans Republican, it also has an independent streak that some analysts say could become alienated if the Republican contest becomes a race to the right.

"I think you do have to guard against being seen as too rigid and too locked into a handful of issues on the far right," said Tom Horner, a longtime Republican consultant. "I don't think you can afford to be painted as an extremist, as too far removed from the mainstream of Minnesota politics."

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