When Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced this week that she wouldn't be running for a fifth term in Congress, focus quickly shifted to Jim Graves, the Democrat who nearly defeated her in 2012 and was trying to finish the job in 2014. After a series of interviews, however, it appears that Graves has changed his mind, telling MinnPost on Thursday that he will not run for the seat now that his high-profile opponent has left the race open.
“Basically, after all that’s gone on, and with Michele Bachmann now stepping down, I’ve been talking to my friends and family and frankly, the feeling is, ‘Mission Accomplished,’" Graves told MinnPost in an interview published Friday. "She wasn’t representing the people of the 6th District appropriately, and now she won’t be representing them. There’s no way anyone could run and win who would be worse than Michele Bachmann. So we accomplished that task.”
According to Graves, he plans to leave public life for the next few months and return to his role as a businessman and hotelier. He said he hopes another qualified candidate will pick up where he left off and give Democrats a shot at taking the seat.
Graves ran a strong campaign in 2012, coming within 4,300 votes of ousting Bachmann despite being outspent by a 12-to-1 margin. National Democrats largely ignored the race until the final weeks, however, primarily because Bachmann's fundraising advantage was initially believed to give her an uncontested path to reelection. Their ears perked up after Graves' near-miss, and earlier this year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee expressed excitement at getting involved in a Bachmann-Graves rematch.
Graves has said he's satisfied knowing that Bachmann is no longer plotting a return to Congress. But with her name recognition gone from the race, he told MinnPost that he thinks national Democrats and the media will soon lose interest. It appears that Graves already has.
Read his full statement, sent to the press:
After meeting with my closest family members, friends and supporters, we have decided to suspend Jim Graves for Congress indefinitely. This was never about Jim Graves; this was about challenging the ineffective leadership and extremist ideology of Michele Bachmann on behalf of those she represents. As of Wednesday, that goal was accomplished -- and our supporters are and should be incredibly proud of that accomplishment. I will never be able to adequately express my gratitude for the tireless work of our fantastic campaign team and our legions of friends and supporters.
UPDATE:: 1:56 p.m. --
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee would not directly comment when asked about Graves' decision.
"We expect this district will feature a bitter Republican primary fight over who can get the furthest to the right the fastest, and we’ll monitor the race as it develops," DCCC spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in an emailed statement to The Huffington Post. "Regardless of whether Michele Bachmann is running, her brand of extremism and obstruction has infected the Republican party -- and it will be on the ballot in MN-06 and Republican-held districts across the country where we will fight to elect commonsense problem-solvers."
In the wake of Bachmann's retirement, the DCCC has focused on ensuring the race is still defined by the Minnesota congresswoman's unabashed conservatism. Political watchdogs have questioned whether a Democrat could win the conservative-leaning district, especially now that Bachmann's penchant for controversy is no longer a factor.
Sabrina Siddiqui contributed reporting.