MN-8: Clark moves north for run at Cravaack

Today my series on Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District continues with the first of several posts about the DFLers running to unseat Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8). Today I’m posting two items about the candidates who’ve announced. Jeff Anderson was this morning. Now we look at Tarryl Clark.

Tarryl Clark is a fascinating figure in the unfolding drama of the newly-competitive MN-8.

On one hand she’s a former state senator who won a competitive election. She has a wide political and fundraising network and is considered a competent speaker and campaigner. She’s been cultivating a coalition of labor and progressive groups for the elusive “blue green” combination key to winning elections in this region.

On the other, she is from St. Cloud in MN-6 where she ran for Congress just last year. She and her husband very recently moved to Duluth for the purpose of running for this seat. Clark raised a handsome sum of campaign cash in her 2010 run against Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN6), but much of that can be attributed to the particularly controversial nature of her opponent. Bachmann raises vast amounts of money for herself and her opponents almost every time she speaks. And, of course, Clark lost by a 52-39 margin.

After what appeared to be a rather polished campaign roll-out, Clark was lambasted in the top Duluth and Iron Range newspapers as a “carpetbagger.” Her efforts since that time have been enthusiastic and campaign smooth, but more resemble the sort of generic machinations seen in a late stage Senate campaign in a much larger state, not an early local plea for down home support. Her website is a list of well-meaning but unsurprising Democratic policy positions and a fundraising pitch. Her connection to the district is not apparent and she’s obviously made a strategic decision to pretend otherwise and hope no one notices.

And there you go. Clark’s problem isn’t name recognition among 8th CD Democrats. Most of them know her. They really wanted her to beat Bachmann last time. But there is serious grumbling about the way Clark played the geographic game here. She has very little personal connection to the district, other than St. Cloud’s location somewhat near the longstanding border between MN-6 and MN-8. Northern Minnesota politics is heavily influenced by Duluth and the Iron Range. Before Cravaack, this particular seat was held for more than 60 years by two political legends, Jim Oberstar and John Blatnik, both from the Iron Range city of Chisholm.

The prospect of a dynamic progressive woman representing the 8th would be exciting for many DFLers. The prospect of that woman being from outside the region wouldn’t. This is Clark’s central problem and she hasn’t properly responded to this yet.

Nevertheless, Clark could be a strong contender for the DFL nomination in a primary, especially if the field is split. She can raise money and is, to her credit and detriment, a methodical, steadfast, focused campaigner. Her success will depend on how well she convinces northern Minnesotans that she understands the region.

Tomorrow we meet some of the potential DFL candidates for the MN-8 seat, the most notable at this date being former Rep. Rick Nolan from the Crosby-Ironton area.

Read Part 1: Redistricting Scenarios; Part 2: Chip Cravaack; Part 3: The non-candidates or Part 4: Jeff Anderson. Follow MinnesotaBrown on Facebook or Twitter for news. My book, a humorous primer on life north of the metro, is “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. It will take an exciting candidate to unseat Cravaack, just as he was the exciting candidate who unseated Oberstar. I don’t think Tarryl Clark is that candidate. She reminds me of IP candidate in CD5, Tammy Lee, basically a placeholder candidate to offer an alternative to Keith Ellison.

  2. I’m trying to keep an open mind about all the candidates, including Taryl Clark. Frankly, though, from what I have seen of Taryl Clark I am not impressed. Her speech to the Duluth DFL City convention a few weeks back was one of the worst political speeches I’ve ever seen. It was rambling, unfocused, and failed to provide any explanation of why she actually wants to represent this district.

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