“I survived a year in Vietnam, and then I get ambushed on the streets of my own town,” he said. “If this is my reward for 28 years of serving, working with people I hated privately but were Republicans anyway, I couldn’t believe it.”
Laidig ran in the primary with the support of state Senate Republican leaders, but he failed. Bachmann won the GOP nomination by a 20-point margin and went on to defeat Ted Thompson, a former top aide to then-Rep. Bill Luther (D), in the November 2000 election.
For the next two years she and Pawlenty served together in the Legislature, although they had little relationship since by that point he had risen to become House Majority Leader and was running for governor in 2002.
When Bachmann arrived in the state Senate in early 2001, she presented herself as a maternal type, focusing on education and abortion. She called herself a “full-time legislator” and a “full-time mom” in a January 2001 interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She told the newspaper she relished giving her 70-year-old mother a tour of the state Capitol.
One night early in her term, a colleague overheard Bachmann pointing out the desks of the four moderate Republican Senators to activists, indicating they would be soon targeted for defeat.
The freshman Senator didn’t spend much time making nice with her new colleagues, some of her fellow legislators recalled. Bachmann didn’t want help learning the ropes either.
Former state Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, then a Republican, remembered setting up an orientation in her office for Bachmann and the several other newly elected freshmen Republican Senators.
“Michele came once and said she didn’t need it. She didn’t want to be part of it,” said Kiscaden, who later switched parties. “I wouldn’t say I worked with her, because she already made a decision in her mind that I was too moderate for her.”
Activists frequently filled Bachmann’s office late at night in the state Capitol, her former colleagues recalled.
“Our impression of her was that she didn’t really do the policy work of being a state Senator, she did the bare minimum,” Kiscaden said. “She used the office for organizing.”
After courts redrew the state legislative lines in 2002, Bachmann was moved into the same district as Democratic state Sen. Jane Krentz. Bachmann won.
A Focus on Social Issues
After her re-election, Bachmann focused her legislative priorities on hot-button social issues, including her years-long quest to put a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on the ballot.
There were a few exceptions, such as Bachmann’s support for the stringent Taxpayer Bill of Rights and her push for a state exemption to the No Child Left Behind Act. She signed on to legislation promoting cell phone consumer rights. She also supported the development of personal rapid transit, balloon-shaped “pod” cars that move people on monorail tracks through congested areas.