July 29, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Reeding the Tea Leaves In Minnesota’s 6th District

Physician Maureen Reed (D) has devoted a whole section of her campaign Web site to explaining how she can defeat Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) in November. But the more immediate question is how she can get through a Democratic primary against state Sen. Tarryl Clark, who has been embraced by virtually all segments of the party’s establishment.

Reed, the well-connected former chairwoman of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents, insists she is the only one who can beat Bachmann, which she is making her central pitch to primary voters. And she has shown a willingness to self-fund. But her determination to stay in the race, despite Clark’s institutional support and edge in name identification, is worrisome for state and national Democrats who would much rather train their attention and resources on Bachmann than see a contested primary fight drag out until August.

“For the Democrats to be kind of bludgeoning themselves in a district that is hard for them to win is doing Michele Bachmann a big favor,” said Lawrence Jacobs, the chairman of University of Minnesota’s Political Studies Department.

The 6th district race is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of top challenges to watch. Reed says she has not received any pressure to drop out of the primary, and the DCCC has stayed out of the contest. But it wouldn’t be unheard of for the national party to change its mind if the primary starts to get nasty or if it determines it’s the only way to have a shot against Bachmann.

Clark, the Minnesota Senate’s Assistant Majority Leader, won the state party’s 6th district endorsement on the first ballot on March 27. She already had won the backing of all the members of Minnesota’s Democratic Congressional delegation, Minnesota’s major labor unions and abortion-rights group EMILY’s List.

Reed dismissed the importance of Clark’s endorsements, telling Roll Call, “Endorsements are the insiders’ game.” Instead, Reed is styling herself as the political outsider.

“People are mad at folks in Washington and mad at folks in St. Paul,” she said.

The problem for Reed is that it is the party insiders and activists who are most likely to vote in a primary.

“The endorsement and the nomination processes ... are driven by the political party and their rank and file,” Jacobs said. “Clark is a lifelong Democrat who’s built up these relationships with very important grass-roots organizations and the donor base. And Reed is basically trying to crash the party, and it’s a steep uphill battle for her.”

The primary is also where the turnout operations of the state party, labor unions and EMILY’s List can have the biggest effect.

As the state Democrats’ endorsed candidate, Clark will have access to the party’s voter file and will have the “benefit a large number of volunteers with the [Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party]-coordinated campaign,” DFL spokeswoman Kristin Sosanie said. Party members will be “knocking doors, canvassing, talking to reporters and putting the full weight of the party” behind Clark’s campaign, Sosanie said.

Such campaign infrastructure is expensive to create from scratch, but that is what Reed plans to do.

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