Former state senator among DFL hopefuls in 8th District

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

Tarryl Clark

Former state senator Tarryl Clark was working the phone early Friday, June 15, wearing a headset so that the 20 hours a week she spends calling supporters doesn’t leave her with a sore shoulder.

“It’s been going really well,” Clark, 8th District Democratic congressional candidate, said of fundraising.

Indeed, first-quarter fundraising reports reveal that Clark, who unsuccessfully ran against high-profile Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann two years ago in the 6th District, towers over her two Democratic political rivals, former Duluth City Council president Jeff Anderson and DFL-endorsed former congressman Rick Nolan.

Clark had some $418,000 on hand, while Nolan showed $40,500 and Anderson $20,000.

Both of her Democratic rivals acknowledge that in Clark they’re running against a well-financed opponent.

But Anderson portrays Clark as following a path of personal ambition, one that had her moving to Duluth from St. Cloud after losing to Bachmann.

Willard Munger Jr., the son of the late, iconic state representative Willard Munger of Duluth, expressed great fondness for Clark and isn’t troubled by Clark switching districts.

“It’s not an issue to me,” he said.

But Munger indicated it is an issue for some Democrats.

A voter can always find a reason not to support a candidate, Clark said.

She indicated her length of residency was an issue crafted by her opponents.

Clark sees herself as best fitted to serve the 8th District.

“Over anybody in the race, I’m the only one who’s worked through central and northeastern Minnesota for the last 24 years on behalf of our families, our communities our seniors, our veterans,” said Clark.

“I’ve been working on public policy work since the early ‘90s. I’m a policy wonk and an organizer,” she said.

Clark, 50, an attorney by profession, served five years in the state senate where she became the face of the Democratic caucus, assuming the role of spokeswoman.

Two years ago, in an election that saw long-serving 8th District Congressman James Oberstar defeated, Clark won about 40 percent of the vote against Bachmann.

Had Clark taken the entire vote garnered by an Independence Party candidate in the race the outcome would not have changed.

Speaking on the issues, Clark views the trillions of dollars of national debt as the product of decisions made over many years.

“It’s taken a very long time for us to get to this spot,” said Clark, arguing that the financing of the Iraq and Afghan wars helped balloon the debt.

She speaks of letting the Bush tax cuts expire, and otherwise making sure everyone is “paying their fair share” as a means of restoring the federal budget.

In regard to Social Security — federal entitlements — she likes to think of them “as our own money,” said Clark.

That is, they’re benefits taxpayers have contributed toward and that need to be respected.

Speaking on the Federal Affordable Care Act — so-called Obamacare — Clark deemed passage of the law remarkable.

“Congress actually stood up to the big interests,” she said.

Clark hailed the benefits afforded by the law, such as allowing adult children to remain on their parent’s health insurance until age 26, as one of many.

She does not believe the law is unconstitutional.

On a transportation issue, the recent decision by the Anoka County Board to back away from the Northern Lights Express, high-speed rail envisioned as running from Duluth to the metro, Clark indicated the board made a mistake.

“I’m not sure they’re thinking long-term right now,” said Clark, backing the line championed by Oberstar.

On an issue in the northern district, proposed nickel mining by Polymet, Clark indicated a wait-and-see attitude.

“We’ve learned a lot in the last 100 years (about mining) — we’re still cleaning up from things that happened 100 years ago,” said Clark.

But 21st Century technology allows people to do the kind of mining they need, she explained.

However, standards need to be upheld.

“The company tells me they can do that. If they can, then they’ll be able to move forward,” said Clark,

It’s a false premise, she said, to argue that job creation needs to be placed ahead of environmental protection.

Both can be achieved, she said.

In the energy field, Clark spoke of growing other energy-related jobs in the district, such as manufacturing wind turbines.

If Clark’s length of residency is an issue to some, the family living arrangements of Republican 8th District Congressman Chip Cravaack has also received scrutiny.

Cravaack’s wife and children live on the East Coast, with the congressman residing in the district, Cravaack has said.

There’s some question of where the congressman does actually reside, said Clark.

But Clark, who depicts Cravaack’s voting record as hurtful to families, seniors, suggested residency is one of the smaller issues Cravaack faces in the upcoming election.

Clark believes Democrats will unite behind her if she wins the primary.

“I absolutely know they’ll be with me on Aug. 15,” said Clark.

“We’re going to continue what we’ve been doing for the last year now. Reaching out to as many people as possible,” said Clark.

Clark and her husband, Doug, have two sons.