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A wide-open race in Minnesota for Bachmann’s seat

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They've lost their high-profile champion and tea party heroine, but Republicans in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District express confidence they can hold the U.S. House seat even without Michele Bachmann on the ballot next year.

Mrs. Bachmann's retirement announcement late last month — and the subsequent withdrawal of her main Democratic challenger, businessman Jim Graves, just days later — have made the race one of the most wide open in the country just 14 months before next year's Aug. 14 primaries.

But state Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey says he is optimistic about his party's prospects in the district and pointed to its strong Republican demographics — Mitt Romney easily carried the district last year, as did GOP nominees George W. Bush in 2004 and Sen. John McCain in 2008 — as evidence of how it just might be "a perfect district" for Republicans in a largely blue state. He also predicted renewed GOP enthusiasm in the midterm in reaction to the Democrats' takeover of the state legislature in 2012.

"We saw what happened when Democrats have free range and do whatever they want," Mr. Downey said. "We're confident that Republicans will be energized and committed to turning back that agenda."

Luke Yurczyk, who heads the GOP in the district, sounds a similar note of confidence. Although Mrs. Bachmann's winning margins had been shrinking in recent years — she defeated Mr. Graves in 2012 with just 51 percent of the vote — Mr. Yurczyk thinks she would easily have won a fifth term had she run.

"She was certainly outspoken in her beliefs of [limiting the] size of government and really standing up for conservative principles. We're going to miss her," he said. "I'm sure she'll still be in some capacity advocating for us, but beyond that we just wish her well."

Already the Republican field includes talk-show host and former state Rep. Tom Emmer, who lost a race for governor in 2010, and Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah, who entered the race last week and appears be positioning herself as a contrast to the high-profile, often polarizing Mrs. Bachmann.

"We need someone who will actually fight to get things done, who will make our conservative principles a reality," she told supporters in announcing her candidacy. "Washington is full of people who talk and talk and talk."

With a rare favorable playing field, the Republican list of candidates is likely to grow, with several state lawmakers, veterans advocate Pete Hegseth and onetime state party chairman Pat Shortridge eyeing the race, according to The Associated Press.

Democrats also are scrambling to find a candidate, with environmental activist Judy Adams the only announced candidate.

Mrs. Bachmann abruptly announced her decision to not run for a fifth term through an almost nine-minute YouTube video May 29, insisting that her decision was unrelated to any fear of losing a tight race or the ongoing investigations of her campaign's spending practices.

Two days later, Mr. Graves pulled out as well, saying his goal had been simply to prevent Mrs. Bachmann from returning to Washington.

"There's no way anyone could run and win who would be worse than Michele Bachmann. So we accomplished that task," said the Minneapolis businessman and hotel manager.

Mr. Yurczyk said he found the situation "funny," saying that he didn't know whom Mr. Graves had intended to serve, but it definitely was not the people of the district.

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