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Tinklenberg enters 6th District congressional race
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Elwyn Tinklenberg is the only DFLer so far to enter the race for the 6th Congressional district. Five Republicans have already announced their candidacies. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)
Former Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg is the first DFLer to formally announce his candidacy for Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. The seat is open because Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy is running for the U.S. Senate. Tinklenberg says he wants to bring a real world practicality to Congress. While Tinklenberg faces competition from only one other DFLer, there are five Republicans who have announced plans to run for the seat.

Blaine, Minn. — Tinklenberg made his announcement at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Tinklenberg, who served as mayor of Blaine, was a key player in getting the facility built in the 1980s. He touted his work to get the light rail line up and running as transportation commissioner under Jesse Ventura.

Tinklenberg, a former Methodist minister, says DFLers should not shy away from talking about faith and moral values. His announcement speech focused on restoring faith in government and ending the divisive bickering in Washington.

"We are deciding in this race whether we want to send another partisan to a Congress that is already choking on them, or if we want to take a new direction. A direction of progress and reasonableness and accomplishment," he said.

Tinklenberg opposes legalized abortion, favors gun rights and supports a federal ban on gay marriage, provided there are some legal protections in place for gay couples. Those views are to the right of many Democrats, but could play well in the socially conservative 6th district.

We are deciding in this race whether we want to send another partisan to a Congress that is already choking on them, or if we want to take a new direction. A direction of progress and reasonableness and accomplishment.
- Elwyn Tinklenberg

He says he does not support the president's plan to divert Social Security money to private accounts. Tinklenberg also said it's important for federal lawmakers to look at every possible way to reduce the federal deficit.

"Do you remember when the Republicans used to talk about smaller government? Well, what's happened under this administration? I mean it's been the largest expansion of government that we've ever known," said Tinklenberg.

Tinklenberg estimates he'll need to raise about $2 million to run an effective campaign in the district. His only known DFL opponent is Woodbury resident Scott Mortensen. Minnesota's 6th District includes St. Cloud, the northern Twin Cities suburbs, and stretches into eastern suburbs like Stillwater and Woodbury. The district has a heavy dose of swing voters in places like Anoka and Coon Rapids.

The northern part of the district, including St. Cloud, tends to be socially conservative. The district leans Republican, which has attracted some well known conservatives to the race.

Republican Rep. Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud says he and the four other Republican candidates are spending the bulk of their time raising money, and talking to Republican activists in the district.

"The next several months is about dollars and delegates. It's raising money," says Knoblach. "It's talking to delegates and alternates, convincing them that you're the best person." All five Republicans are known for being fiscally and socially conservative. The key differences may be background and style.

Former Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke was education commissioner under Gov. Pawlenty until 2004, when the Minnesota Senate refused to confirm her. She's touting her work in the U.S. Department of Education in Washington to delegates.

"I worked there in '02 and '03 for President Bush, so I still have current contacts in Washington. And that's a city where you need to know people in order to get things done," says Yecke.

Another GOP candidate, Republican Sen. Michelle Bachmann, is best known for campaigning against the Profile of Learning education standards, and for seeking a ban in the state constitution on gay marriage.

Bachmann is using her hard-fought campaign victories to woo delegates. In 2000, she defeated a Republican incumbent. In 2002, the legislative boundaries were redrawn and she defeated a DFL incumbent. Bachmann says that campaign experience will help her in the general election.

"I've never hid my views when I've run for state Senate, and I've enjoyed good strong victories in swing areas where there are quite a few Democrats," says Bachmann.

Rep. Phil Krinkie, R-Shoreview, is best known around the Capitol as Dr. No. He earned the moniker for his past record of voting against any new state spending.

"I'm the time-tested conservative. I've been in the Legislature longer, been in the trenches fighting the battle for our Republican principles longer, and I think with a little more diligence than the other competitors in this race," says Krinkie.

The fifth Republican candidate, St. Cloud businessman Jay Esmay, did not return calls for this report.

For his part, Tinklenberg says a long, drawn-out primary battle among Republicans could only help his candidacy. He also plans on playing a wild card or two.

Tinklenberg says he'll probably contact his former boss, Jesse Ventura, to see if he can help woo swing voters in the 6th District. Voters who lack strong party affiliation in Anoka County helped propel Ventura into the governor's office in 1998.