Tarryl Clark Hoping Her Political Chops Pay Off

Article excerpt

D.C. Dispatches is on the campaign trail in the 8th District this week, profiling the DFL congressional candidates competing in next week's primary election. Today is former state Sen. Tarryl Clark

Second of three articles

SILVER BAY, Minn. -- Tarryl Clark is browsing the fabric displays at the Behind the Seams quilting supply shop here in the tiny town. There's a Cat in the Hat quilt draped over a door, and she's telling a story about the time she made a Scrabble-themed quilt for her son and his girlfriend.

Clark has visited 13 of these quilting stores since Friday. Minutes later, she'll hit up another, just a few miles down Highway 61. Minnesota's quilters are hosting a scavenger hunt of sorts, and since the 8th Congressional District is home to a third of the shops on the event's list of featured stores, Clark said she's trying to visit as many as she can.

Clark is one of three DFL candidates running in Tuesday's party's primary election. And between buying strips of fabric for projects delayed by her campaign ("I get to collect more fabric than I get to quilt," she jokes), she's shaking hands and asking shop owners what they expect from their member of Congress.

A former state senator, DFL party official and candidate for Congress in the 6th District, Clark is a veteran campaigner, and she's been showing it this primary campaign. She's released a half- dozen TV ads, tries to attend up to 10 campaign events a day and has staffers and volunteers making up to 20,000 phone calls a week ahead of Tuesday's primary.

She's raised a ton of money as well ($1.1 million through July 25, compared with $171,000 for Jeff Anderson and $357,000 for Rick Nolan). A key prong to her closing argument is viability: In order to knock off Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in a high-profile fall campaign, the DFL needs to put up an experienced, effective campaigner like her, she says.

"It's always been about representing our families and our communities, period," she said. "For me, it's not good enough that it's about beating someone. It really is about choices we have."

Moving to the 8th

The question is whether such campaigning expertise will matter to 8th District DFLers.

After her failed 2010 congressional bid against Rep. Michele Bachmann, Clark bought a condo in Duluth and announced her run last May, opening herself up to a consistent line of attack from opponents who say she isn't rooted deeply enough in the 8th District.

"Tarryl Clark has made this race more about her own personal political ambitions than about the people she wants to represent," said Anderson, a former Duluth City Council member running a campaign based primarily around his life in the 8th.

But Clark said she's more connected to the district than her opponents will acknowledge, having worked in northern and central Minnesota her entire life, "professionally, personally and politically."

"I've spent more time on church floors doing youth retreats than Chip Cravaack has lived in the district," she said (Cravaack grew up in Ohio but has lived in Minnesota since 1990. His family moved to New Hampshire last summer, but Clark's own residency history would probably neutralize that as a fall campaign issue, should she win on Tuesday). …