With Bachmann out, Democrats target Kline’s House seat

June 16, 2013

Now that Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has said she won’t run for re-election in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, Democrats are looking for another target.

They may have found one in U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Republican who for nearly a decade has represented Minnesota’s 2nd District, which includes much of the southern Twin Cities suburbs.

Democrats think Kline may be vulnerable because last year’s round of redistricting removed some areas that typically had supported Republicans and added some areas where Democrats usually win elections.

In last fall’s election — the first for the newly configured district — President Barack Obama won slightly more votes than Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Kline defeated his Democratic challenger, Mike Obermueller, by slightly more than 8 percentage points. Although it was a comfortable victory, it did not come close to matching Kline’s nearly 27-point margin of victory in 2010, before redistricting.

“This is now a decidedly swing district,” said Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party. “This is one of those rare opportunities where you have a district on paper that is winnable.”

Democrats have long criticized Kline for toeing the Republican Party line, and in the last campaign they highlighted his support for the Republican House budget plan that would have replaced Medicare with a voucher system for future retirees.

They see increasing opportunity to go after Kline on education issues as Kline has chaired the House Education and the Workforce committee since 2010.

Last week, the House Majority PAC, whose mission is to elect Democrats launched an Internet ad campaign against Kline for his stand on student loan interest rates. It contends that Kline seeks to pass a law that “could more than double the interest rate on college loans.”

Kline declined an interview for this story. His spokesman accused Democrats of launching “petty attacks.”

The House Majority PAC spent $35.6 million in a bid to defeat congressional Republicans in the 2012 round of elections, including $1.5 million in Minnesota’s 8th District where it helped then-DFL candidate Rick Nolan defeat Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack.

“We are in a situation now where Michele Bachmann is not running again and John Kline is House Majority PAC’s top target in the Gopher State,” said Andy Stone, a spokesman for the House Majority PAC.

Obermueller, a former state representative from Eagan, already is campaigning for a 2014 rematch.

“Michele Bachmann drew a lot of media attention,” he said. “Because she drew attention from the media, John Kline was able to hide behind her a little bit and keep the focus off his record and off of the things that he was doing because you could always count on Michele Bachmann to be in the limelight. Well, that focus is shifting now.”

In an interview in April, Kline talked about being targeted in 2014 and his plans to add to his already ample campaign war chest.

“I’ve got three quarters of a million dollars cash on hand,” he said then. “I’ve been out there pretty busy working towards that end. We’re going to continue to do that. I have demonstrated that I can raise money and we’ll stay at that and step it up.”