Bachmann Encounters Challenger from Within
Fellow Republican faces long odds, party disapproval
By Dennis Lien
Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)
August 3, 2008
Aubrey Immelman can’t deny it: He’s a long shot’s long shot.
The St. John’s University psychology professor became just that when he decided to run for Congress in Minnesota’s 6th District. As a Republican. Against a favorite of Republican Party leaders, freshman Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Bachmann not only is a proven vote-getter, but her campaign also has lots of money: $1.3 million on hand. Plus, she’s already focused on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-endorsed candidate, Elwyn Tinklenberg, in what’s considered a competitive contest.
But first she must get past Immelman, a 52-year-old South African native who has lived in Minnesota for 17 years. They’ll meet in the Sept. 9 primary.
“I think a lot of people don’t even know there is a primary challenger,” Immelman said.
With little money, he’s embarking on a walking tour [link added] around the district to get his name out to prospective voters. He plans to set out from Freeport on Saturday, one month before the primary, and then work toward the Twin Cities.
“I don’t have any illusions,” he conceded of his underdog status. “I’ve got to get an alternative message out there.”
The two have had little contact, and no debates have been scheduled. He has held no fundraisers and said he won’t take money from special interests.
As for Republican leaders, they barely have him on the radar screen.
“We are not being distracted by this gentleman’s filing,” state Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey said. “As the Republican chair, I had never heard of him before. I don’t think we have too much to fear.”
He said the party also isn’t changing its strategy because of him.
“I don’t know of any resource, any time, that is being spent on this so-called challenge,” he added.
Immelman [link to biography added] grew up in South Africa, spent his high school years in Florida while his father earned an advanced accounting degree, and then returned home, where he was a soldier in the infantry. He earned a doctorate, immigrated to the United States and moved with his wife to Minnesota in 1991 because of the quality of life and the fishing. Now a U.S. citizen, Immelman and his wife live in Sartell and have three sons and a daughter.
“I just developed a bond for the United States,” said Immelman, whose campaign highlights national security, public safety and immigration reform as the top issues. [Links added. Note: campaign issue is immigration law enforcement, not immigration reform.]
The key difference between the two candidates, he said, is his long-standing opposition to the Iraq war [link added]. He conceded he was not opposed to it initially but changed his mind a year after it began.
“The intelligence (supporting it) had been cherrypicked,” he said. “Since 2004, I’ve been advocating vigorously against the Iraq war. … I am not an anti-war candidate. I am against wars that undermine U.S. national security and waste taxpayer dollars and weaken the dollar because of the money that’s being borrowed.”
Bachmann has been a long-standing supporter of the Bush administration’s handling of the war.
In recent weeks, she’s also been extremely visible on energy issues, urging Congress to open up oil- and gas-drilling opportunities to ease prices for consumers.
Immelman isn’t quite as passionate about that issue. He described himself as flexible on energy concerns but, unlike Bachmann, would prefer not to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
As an immigrant, Immelman said his experiences will enable him to tackle the immigration issue in a positive way.
“It’s bad policy to give, in effect, amnesty to people who came in illegally,” he said. “It encourages the exact same behavior you are trying to discourage. … I don’t advocate mass deportation, but we need to have verifiable border security before we come up with humane solutions.”
Immelman didn’t seek his party’s endorsement and hangs his prospects on offering voters a “real alternative” to Bachmann.
He said he hopes for support from disaffected Republicans. But he said his campaign also appeals “to independents and even some Democrats for whom foreign policy is an issue and who believe we made a mistake invading Iraq. We need to admit that mistake and move on.”
Selected Reader Comments
With all the complaining done on these sites about the job that the legislators are doing across the board, I am surprised that there are so few people willing to run against them. Every election should have 3 or 4 challengers to an elected office. Is it because running has become such a difficult and expensive thing to do? You have to be willing to put yourself under a microscope before withstanding the scrutiny of the press and public and still come out with your life intact. Then be able to raise the funds to out advertise and build a following to actually vote for you. Maybe that explains why so few people are willing to run for office today. (Buttomfly, Madison, WI)
Immelman is an impressive man, with a serious message. Typical of the arrogance of the Republican Party leadership and Ron Carey to be so dismissive of the guy and not let his voice be heard. And that is what’s wrong with politics, folks–the big-money talks, and the other candidates get shut out. How disappointing. (Uncle Jerry, Saint Paul, MN)
Although things are improving in Iraq, there are still a number of people who either think we should not have removed Saddam Hussein (mostly those who benefited from his corruption and tyranny), and some who think we should not have stuck around afterwards to prevent radical Islamists like Al-Qaeda from taking over. Those radicals have been unable to succeed on the battlefield, at the Iraqi ballot box, or in any of their “grass-roots” endeavors, for lack of a better term to describe their campaigns of massacre and intimidation. No, their only hope is at the America, not the Iraqi, ballot box. People like Immelman continue to provide them that hope. And for my part, I hope he swiftly returns to irrelevance. (Josh S, Saint Paul, MN)
IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
Welcome to Iraq
St. Cloud Times / Associated Press
August 4, 2008
Army Spc. Seth Goehring with his son Kolton at his home in Crookston, Minn., Feb. 28, 2008. He and his wife Alicia were married by proxy, 6,500 miles apart, with his mother standing in for him. She was in Montana, he was in Iraq. (Photo credit: The Associated Press)
Full story (Part 2 of 7)
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