Note: Every year, scores of congressional candidates visit the CQ Roll Call offices to meet with reporters and Contributing Writer Stuart Rothenberg. This new feature, “The Candidate,” will ask these congressional hopefuls five questions about their campaigns. Responses have been edited and condensed.
Have a question for a candidate? We’ll announce their visits via Twitter, and you can tweet your inquiry to @RollCall or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The candidate: Hotel magnate Jim Graves, a Democrat
The member: Four-term Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann
The district: Republican-leaning Minneapolis exurbs, which have experienced significant population growth from young, conservative families. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the 6th District’s vote 56 percent to 41 percent.
The candidate’s team: Aaron Wells (campaign manager), Julie Pearl (press); the rest of the team has yet to be announced.
Q. You came so close to defeating Bachmann last cycle, losing by just over 4,000 votes. What mistakes did you make?
Graves: The biggest mistake was that we got into the game too late. We had a very abbreviated campaign. When we announced, we had nobody on the team, so we had to create a team and had to create a field operation and we had to do all those things in a very abbreviated time frame up against a very well-funded candidate.
Q. Have the recent scandals in the Obama administration made your campaign more difficult in this conservative-leaning district?
Graves: We don’t think it’s necessarily going to impact the election so much. But we’re concerned about these those things like anybody else would be, especially the AP and the Fox News issue. The First Amendment and freedom of speech and the freedom of the press is so important in America, it’s the hallmark of what makes us a great country. Michele Bachmann would like to make Benghazi a big deal. It’s a tragedy, it was terrible that Ambassador [J. Christopher] Stevens and the other three members of our country were killed and I think we have to learn by that tragedy and obviously there were some very big mistakes that happened over there, and hopefully we learn by those. As far as the IRS goes, I would be very empirical about that. If there was any profiling taking place at the IRS, heads should roll, and we should change that and we should make that very transparent and open.
Q. Last cycle, you loaned your campaign $250K. How much are you willing to boost your campaign this cycle?
Graves: I think the underlying question is more what is my feeling on self-funding, and I don’t really think that’s the message we want to send to the people in the district or the country. So we’re going to put in as little personally as we have to do and we’re not going to put a whole lot into it. We want to see the people support the campaign. It should be a grass-roots approach. And that’s what we think this country should be based on. You shouldn’t have to be a person of wealth to have to run for Congress.
Q. You told us last year that if you defeated Bachmann, you would only serve a few terms. Is that still the case? How many?
Graves: What I said is I think I should be able to do a pretty good job in three terms and then turn it over to someone else. I still feel that way. I haven’t pledged it would only be three terms, but that’s my goal. By then I’ll be 66 years old and I’ll be ready to go fishing with my grandkids.
Q. You own a chain of hotels. What’s the appropriate tip for a bellhop or a chambermaid?
Graves: As much as you have.