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Clark says she will challenge Cravaack in 2012 election

Tarryl Clark, who tried to unseat Michele Bachmann from Congress in 2010, wants to take on Chip Cravaack in 2012.

Clark told the News Tribune on Saturday that she is filing papers with the Federal Elections Commission to seek the Democratic nomination for the 8th District seat and will send an e-mail and video to supporters on Monday announcing her intentions.

Clark and her husband, Doug, have purchased a condominium in Duluth where she will spend "a good chunk" of her time during the campaign, she said. They will maintain their residence in St. Cloud, Minn., where Doug Clark works. St. Cloud is just south of the 8th District border with the 6th District, where Clark won about 40 percent of the vote in her battle with Bachmann.

Clark, a former state senator, noted that redistricting is under way, and it's possible St. Cloud and Duluth would be part of the same district. "There's no lines yet, and we just can't wait for people to be figuring this out," she said. "I really believe the important lines are about fighting for our families and sticking up for people."

Without mentioning Cravaack by name, Clark signaled the attack. "We've got some in Congress who seem to be out there hurting Medicare and Social Security and aren't doing a thing about creating jobs," she said.

Cravaack's spokesman, Shawn Ryan, was unavailable for comment. Cravaack hasn't announced that he'll seek re-election, but before he began his term he said he'd like to serve for three or four terms.

St. Louis County Commissioner Steve Raukar of Hibbing welcomed Clark's announcement. "She gets it," Raukar said. "She knows what the issues are. She's very well-versed in the process, how it works at the state and the federal level. She brings a great deal to the table.

"Obviously there's a lot of work to be done, but I think based on what I've seen of the field so far, I think she has a lot of potential."

Raukar noted that Clark was able to raise $5 million in her campaign against Bachmann, in what turned out to be the most expensive congressional race in the country.

Clark said she might not need as much money in the less media-saturated 8th District, but said it will take at least $2 million to run a viable campaign.

Don Bye, 8th District DFL chairman, said Clark should be a formidable candidate.

"She ran a credible race against Michele Bachmann," he said. "She will be one of the most serious candidates."

Cravaack defeated 18-term incumbent Jim Oberstar in November, while Clark was losing to Bachmann. How can she make up the difference?

"Different places, different opponents," Clark said. "You know, last year was a tsunami that saw an awful lot of big interests putting money in to mislead people. ... I believe right now that people are seeing what these more extreme people are up to."

Asked how she'll respond to charges of changing residences for political advantage, Clark noted that her work for Land of Lakes Girl Scouts and in youth ministry took her into the 8th District. And there are deeper issues than lines separating districts, she said.

"Every single one of us cares deeply about the community that we live in, and my job is going to be to make sure that every community and our families know that I'm going to strongly represent them," she said.

Raukar noted that he worked with Clark frequently in his capacity as chairman of the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, when she was executive director of the Minnesota Community Action Association.

Bye also said he didn't see residency as an issue.

"She's living as close to the district line from one side as Chip Cravaack is from the other side," he said.

Clark is the first announced candidate for the seat, but several potential candidates have been identified. They include Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson; Duluth resident Daniel Fanning, the deputy state director for U.S. Sen. Al Franken; state Rep. Kerry Gauthier of Duluth; state Rep. John Ward of Brainerd; former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan of Brainerd; Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon; and former state Rep. Tim Faust of Mora.

Raukar said it's too early to tell what effect Clark's early entrance might have on the rest of the field. "It's a matter of her sitting down with people in leadership roles, with elected positions, in union leadership and DFL officials and just see where the commonalities are; who lines up against who."