By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN With only a handful of days left before Election Day 2008, sixth district congressional DFL candidate El Tinklenberg paid a visit to Delano for the bridge dedication ceremonies Oct. 25.
Tinklenberg, who is running against incumbent Republican Michele Bachmann, met with folks on-hand for the dedication.
“I’m a huge fan of any kind of road project/bridge projects. I think that’s the way we’re going to help to get the economy going again is investing in infrastructure,” Tinklenberg said. “We’ve been working on Highway 12 and improvements all along the corridor, so I wanted to be out here to see this happening, and obviously we’re in the last week and a half of the campaign, so it was a great place to be and it’s fun to see the community turn out the way it did.”
Tinklenberg has been campaigning heavily across the sixth district, and said he’s received a good response about his campaign and his approach.
“They’re concerned about the economy, what’s happening with the economy, concerned about making sure we’re doing everything we can to create good jobs,” Tinklenberg said of comments he’s received while on the campaign trail. “I think that’s been the focus and that’s how we started the campaign. The day I announced (he was running for office) Oct. 1, 2007 I said this campaign is about the economy and jobs, and everything that’s happened since has demonstrated that.
“One of the ways we can respond is to do stuff like this I mean, rebuilding America is a way to put people to work and create long-term economic benefits in our communities and in our state, so I’m looking forward to being part of that.”
Tinklenberg, the former city council member and mayor of Blaine and commissioner of transportation for Governor Jesse Ventura, said he’s been involved in government for many years, and said he felt Bachmann hasn’t done enough for the district.
“I thought that the incumbent wasn’t doing enough in terms of supporting infrastructure projects, supporting economic development projects, really being in touch with our communities and reaching out to our communities to partner with them to move some of these kind of critical things forward,” he said. “So, I got involved, wanted to run, and it’s certainly gone very well. The support throughout the district has been just terrific, and we’re excited about our prospects.”
He said the first thing that needs to happen is refocusing priorities.
“We have allowed our economic policies and our tax policies to orient themselves toward developing large amounts of wealth for a smaller and smaller group of people, instead of focusing it on rebuilding the middle class, strengthening the middle class, strengthening our small businesses and our communities,” Tinklenberg said. “That’s what I want to do. That’s what I did in Blaine. We were able to double the number of jobs in Blaine in the 10 years that I was mayor. We went from 10,000 to 20,000 jobs in the community, and it was all because we worked together. Business and labor working together, public and private sector working together, to create an environment in which businesses were attracted but also could thrive, and we can do that again, and it involves lots of things.”
He said making sure that tax policies are providing incentives to small businesses for growing plants and equipment and creating jobs is important, along with small-business loan and grant programs.
“It starts in our communities, and that’s maybe the most important part of all,” Tinklenberg said. “It starts in places like Delano, working together with the local community, and that’s what I bring to the race is an understanding of local government, of local communities, and what we can do working together. I think that’s the most important piece of this that the federal government, the state government, county governments, city governments working together in partnership to get some things done.”
When Tinklenberg was in Delano, there were nine days until the election.
“We have been working for a long time to put into place a strong field program within the district,” Tinklenberg said. “We’ve got hundreds of hundreds of volunteers who are going to be out phone calling, knocking on doors, dropping literature, and we’re going to continue to do that.
“Obviously we’ve got a very active ad campaign that’s going on right now between me and the incumbent, and we’re certainly going to continue that throughout, but where we think we win this race is in terms of our field organization and our volunteers and the people who are going to be out working on behalf of the campaign to the end.”
Something he may not have expected early on in the campaign is the national attention it has drawn primarily because of comments made by his opponent on a national television show.
“I think it’s given us an opportunity to expand on things that we were already doing, and that’s what we’re focusing on,” he said of the recent attention shown to the race. “I think the strength of our campaign, from the very beginning, was that we were here. The incumbent thought if you had an ‘R’ behind your name and you appeared on Larry King, that was going to be enough to win you the seat, and kind of took the district for granted.
“Our focus has been here in the district, and that’s where it’s going to stay. We’re working hard, and we think our message is resonating with the people in the district, and we’re gonna keep doing what we’ve been doing, right through the end, and we believe we’ve got a great chance to win.”
Despite the number of volunteers and recent polls, Tinklenberg said he is still very nervous about the race.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “You gotta continue to work hard and make sure that we’re getting our message out to folks.”
He said the one thing that surprises people about him is that he has never held a partisan office.
“Mayor was non-partisan, commissioner of transportation in the Ventura administration I think that’s one of the things he was given high marks for is that he had a bi-partisan cabinet. He had Republicans on board, Democrats on board, Independents on board, and we had to work together. That’s what it’s going to take to move forward here we’ve gotta have people working together and that’s the kind of approach that I’ve had all of my life it’s building coalitions, it’s building partnerships to get things done.
“I think that’s what it’s gonna take to move forward. We’re not going to be able to afford a narrow, ideological approach. We need common sense, fragmentism, that focuses on getting things done for our communities.”