Michele Bachmann's congressional reelection race surprisingly close

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A recent poll commissioned by her Democratic opponent shows anti-gay U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann only two points ahead in her reelection race in Minnesota’s 6th Congresional District. The difference is within the poll’s margin of error.

Political observers still expect Bachmann to win the race – her district was re-drawn to make it more Republican and she’s perhaps the top congressional fundraiser in the country, loaded with cash donations from the corporate right and hate groups. But the unexpected closeness of the race demonstrates how badly Bachmann harmed herself during her bizarre run for the Republican presidential nomination.

That run brought unprecedented scrutiny to the gaffe-prone, fact-challenged Bachmann, as well as to her rock-solid fundamentalist Christian beliefs and her strange family, especially her husband Marcus Bachmann. Although Bachmann describes herself as a businesswoman, the business that she owns with her husband provides biblical psychological counseling, including trying convert gay and lesbian patients into heterosexuals through prayer.

Marcus Bachmann’s speech and mannerisms, widely ridiculed as “effeminate,” only added to the circus-like nature of her campaign.

Bachmann won her last race in 2010 by a 12-percent margin. But even that strong showing was the sixth weakest among Republican House incumbents in an election that was a right-wing rout. And her opponent this time around is Jim Graves, a hotel magnate who has cash of his own to bring to the race.

Graves persuaded Independence Party voters, who account for about 10 percent of the district’s electorate, to sit out the race this year. That presents yet another challenge for Bachmann, who must now go head-to-head against Graves, a social libertarian.

Meanwhile, Bachmann continues to draw controversial national headlines. Her attendance at a conservative synagogue in Chicago’s heavily gay east Lakeview neighborhood on the eve of Yom Kippur prompted a walkout a few weeks ago.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Rabbi Michael Siegel of Anshe Emet Synagogue observed protocol by offering a customary greeting to Bachmann as an elected official.

Gary Sircus, a 25-year member of Anshe Emet Synagogue, not only walked out of the service but donated money to Graves and urged his friends to join his efforts to support Bachmann’s opponent. Although she’s a staunch supporter of Israel, Bachmann’s vilification of LGBT people and her campaign to ban their civil rights is strongly at odds with Jewish tradition concerning social justice.

“Our congregation values and embodies tolerance, compassion, respect for individual rights, intelligence, science – all of the things that I think Michele Bachmann stands against,” Sircus told the Trib.

On Oct. 13, The New York Times published an interview by columnist Frank Bruni with Bachmann’s out lesbian stepsister Helen LaFave. She described her hurt and disbelief when Bachmann began using her power as a state senator in Minnesota to defame gays and lesbians as sick and evil and to promote a constitutional amendment denying their civil right to marry. “It felt so divorced from having known me, from having known somebody who’s gay,” LaFave told Bruni. “I was just stunned.

Minnesotans will vote on just such an amendment this year on Election Day.

If Bachmann does win a fourth term in Congress, she faces another campaign – this one by the People for the American Way to have her booted off a key committee. PFAW says Bachmann’s widely ridiculed call for a probe of links between some Muslim-Americans working in President Barack Obama’s administration and the Muslim Brotherhood disqualifies her to serve on the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee.

PFAW has collected more than 86,000 signatures in an online petition to remove Bachmann from the committee.