Congressional candidate Jim Graves
SAINT CLOUD, Minn. -- Jim Graves builds and operates hotels for a living, but now he taking on the daunting task of trying to unseat Michele Bachmann in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District.
"I believe the 6th district deserves a full-time legislator in Washington representing them," Graves told a crowd of well-wishers and reporters who gathered Tuesday at the Le. St. Germain Suite Hotel in St. Cloud.
It's part of fleet of luxury hotels owned or managed by his company Graves World Hospitality. Graves said he's able to pursue politics because his son Ben now runs the day-to-day operations of the hotel group.
Graves will be the wealthiest Democrat in the race, but he said he's not interested in self-funding his campaign against the most effective fundraiser in Congress.
Instead the political newcomer will cast himself as a proven job creator who won't be distracted by national ambitions.
"If you don't show up for work at Graves Hospitality, guess what happens? You get fired," Graves remarked. "Where's she been? She's been running a campaign in Iowa."
Bachmann has repeatedly said her campaign for President and mounting a battle against the Affordable Care Act was all part of her service to the 6th District. She maintains the Obama administration's values run counter to those of her constituents, and opposing the President is part of the job she was elected to do.
Graves grew up in St. Cloud, graduated from Cathedral High and spent the first 48 years of his life there before moving to Minneapolis. He said he'll soon move back in the district, which wraps around the top half of the Twin Cities metro and has traditionally been solid Republican territory.
"It's really all about family values," Graves asserted. "What is family values? It's giving people dignity, giving people an opportunity to reach their goals and to be able to support their families with dignity."
Among those who introduced Graves was Wade Luneberg, who heads Unite Here, a union of restaurant and hotel workers. Luneberg described Graves as someone who always dealt fairly with his unionized employees.
The court-imposed redistricting also drew new boundary lines of the 6th District around Bachmann's home, so she's also facing the prospect of moving. But Bachmann is no ordinary third-term Republican incumbent.
She was a household name in Minnesota and cable talk show favorite long before she ran for the presidency in 2011. And Bachmann's campaign is legendary for its ability to tap into small donors around the nation.
On Tuesday Bachmann appeared at a gas station in Lino Lakes to call attention to rising gas prices, which she said one of the most critical issues in the 6th District where many people commute from small exurban communities to jobs in the Twin Cities metro area.
"We have more oil than Saudi Arabia has, it's in the form of shale oil," Bachmann told KARE, after pumping gas for a customer at the service station.
"If we legalize American energy production we'll have more supplies, and that will bring down the price of a gallon of gas at the pump."
Graves said he shares the goal of increasing American oil supplies, but he said more drilling and exploration won't solve the issue of fluctuating fuel prices in the long term.
"Keep in mind oil is an international commodity. And if we increase our supply we're only going to increase the overall supply by a very little bit," he said.
"A barrel of oil out of North Dakota and a barrel of oil out of Saudi Arabia is priced the same, and it can be sold anywhere in the world."
Graves isn't the only business sector Democrat aiming for Bachmann's spot in Congress.
Entrepreneur Brian McGoldrick of rural Stillwater and human resources consultant Anne Nolan of St. Cloud are also vying for the DFL endorsement.
McGoldrick, who owns a restaurant and marina on White Bear Lake, has raised many of the same criticism of Bachmann for time spent away from her district during her quest for the White House.
Nolan, an attorney by training, works for a firm that helps employers find flexible staffing arrangements allowing parents to balance careers and family.
Party activists will gather at the Teamster's Hall in Blaine Saturday for the 6th District DFL endorsing convention. McGoldrick's campaign said he will abide by the endorsement, meaning he will not run in the August primary without the party's stamp of approval.
Graves said Tuesday that he values the party's endorsement, but he'll wait until Saturday to decide whether to push ahead to the primary without it.
The filing deadline for the August primary is June 5, giving other Democrats time to jump into the race.
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