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Money chase shows closeness of 6th District GOP race

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) The Republicans vying for a spot on Minnesota's 6th Congressional District ballot hauled in comparable amounts of campaign cash and, in some cases, looked to the same donors, according to reports that were due Friday. The money chase illustrates the tough battle ahead for the open congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Only one Democrat, Elwyn Tinklenberg, has entered the 2006 House race and that didn't happen until after the March 31 deadline for the campaign reports.

Of the five announced Republicans, State Rep. Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud boasted the biggest campaign account, thanks to six loans he made to his campaign totalling $100,000. Rep. Phil Krinkie of Shoreview put $20,000 in personal funds toward his campaign.

"I put the money in to make people know I'm serious about the campaign," Knoblach said. The loan and donations left him with almost three times more money in the bank than his closest GOP challenger.

Knoblach raised nearly $53,000 from contributors, second only to state Sen. Michele Bachmann of Stillwater. She pulled in $59,000.

Bachmann said her financial figures demonstrate a broad base of support.

"I don't come from a wealthy home and my husband and I are not personally wealthy," she said. "We've spent our 27 years of marriage investing in our five children and our 23 foster children, and that's where our money has gone. We won't be placing personal funds in a congressional race."

Former Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke kicked in money from the family's bank account for her campaign, but only at the regular contribution limit of $2,100. She was happy with her overall fundraising. "Our goal was $25,000, and we doubled that," she said.

At about $42,000, Krinkie lags behind his legislative colleagues and Yecke, but said it's been difficult to devote time to fundraising while the Legislature is in session. He said he expects to kick into higher gear over the summer.

"This really represents only about three weeks of fundraising activity, and even there the amount of time I was able to dedicate was pretty minimal," Krinkie said. "I have no question we'll be able to out-fundraise my opponents given equal footing and equal time."

Jay Esmay, whose report wasn't immediately available for review, acknowledged he raised less than his competitors. He said it didn't worry him because the endorsing convention is a full year away.

"Frankly, having too much money can really play against you with the delegates," he said. "The real resource here, the true dollars are delegates themselves. They're the ones that have the value. It doesn't take a lot of resources to talk to them."

The scramble for the GOP nomination has produced no early favorite. Some party activists say they're torn among a few candidates, and the campaign finance reports bear that out.

For example, Michael Wigley, a Long Lake businessman and co-founder of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, spread his checks around. He gave $500 to Bachmann in January, $500 to Yecke in February, $500 to Knoblach in March and $2,100 to Krinkie in March. Esmay also got a Wigley donation, but neither man would disclose the amount over the phone.

"We have terrific candidates. It's a blessing of riches," Wigley said. "I think the market will pick one of them. My behavior sure says I'm happy with all of them."