Bachmann challenger Jim Graves speaks on witch hunt

Bachmann's challenger tells Salon the Congresswoman's anti-Muslim campaign is "disgusting" and "dangerous"

Topics: Michele Bachmann, election,

Bachmann challenger Jim Graves speaks on witch hunt

Jim Graves is a wealthy Minneapolis hotelier who got so fed up with Rep. Michele Bachmann that he decided to run against her. The Democratic nominee talks with Salon about why he thinks Bachmann’s “disgusting” and “dangerous” Muslim witch hunt that may cost her her political career.

What’s your reaction to what we’ve been calling Bachmann’s “witch hunt” against Muslims in the government?

It’s definitely a witch hunt. It’s really terrible. It’s really disgusting. It’s horrible. I mean, quite frankly, America’s better than that. We shouldn’t be talking like this. We should be doing things constructively. They’re baseless allegations. They’re inflammatory. They’re divisive. They’re all the things that we don’t want in America.

She has a long history of making these kind of outlandish claims. Do you think voters care? Will it actually mean something in November?

I don’t think — I know that for a fact. I’m out in the district. I’m talking to people daily. People are disgusted and tired of the division, they’re really ready for a change. The polling has been very favorable. It indicates that the negatives are very high on Michele Bachmann’s comments and the way that she governs.

You have internal polling showing that?

Yes we do. She is not polling very well when it comes to the way that she conducts business in Washington. And the people don’t feel that she’s representing them. They feel that she’s propagating a political agenda that doesn’t relate to the district’s needs. She has a celebrity status, but that doesn’t mean anything to people at home.

Do you think she really believes this stuff? What’s her angle?

I think it’s all part of the persona that she wants to present to her base. I hate to be cynical about it, but I think it all relates to fundraising and the drafting of her national base and her taking a lot of money from around the country. I think these kinds of statements have been very good for her in [terms of] raising money.

But I think this time it was a little too calculated, and it’s going to come back to roost because, quite frankly, she’s gonna have to put up or shut up, and the facts are just not going to substantiate her claims. And she’s doubling down, she’s making accusations against her fellow Minnesotan congressman Keith Ellison that he’s associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. And she’s again going further and further into the deep, and, quite frankly, I don’t get it. I don’t understand it, but that’s what she’s doing.

But you think she may have gone too far this time? When you have John Boehner and John McCain and other Republicans coming out against her statements … ?

I think she’s on her last three months in Congress. I think this election is definitely going to show that people want to change. When you look at Boehner and Senator McCain and Rubio and Ed Rollins, this is a bipartisan coming together that enough is enough. This is a very dangerous thing. To instill fear within the government — I mean this is beyond bizarre; this is getting dangerous.

You Might Also Like

If the election were today, before this whole Muslim Brotherhood thing, we would have won the election. We were bascially neck-and-neck, and were pretty certain the independents would have gone our way. Now, we’re very confident.

Why do you think you have a better chance this year than other challengers in previous years?

She’s never run into a business-savvy job creator that bases policy on facts. And she’s never gone one-on-one. Before this year, there’s always been an independent candidate that’s complicated the picture. This year, it’s Michele Bachmann against one candidate. And the Independent Party leaders have been coming into my campaign and actually campaigning with me. So this is going to be a whole different kind of election. In 2008, the candidate who ran against her, a fellow named Elwyn Tinklenberg, lost by three percentage points. And then an Independent Party candidate got 10.1 percent of the vote. He’s not in this race. It’s a one-on-one. And her negatives are up.

Also, in 2008, the Democrat was running with a fellow named Al Franken — now Senator Franken. He won, but it was very very close. There was a recall and all that. But what’s going to happen this time is we have the most popular candidate in all Minnesota running alongside of me, who is Senator Amy Klobuchar. She’s very very popular. She’s going to carry the 6th District. She took it in 2006 against a two-time congressional incumbent from the district by 5.1 percent. And this time, most of the polling says it’s going to be well into the double digits. And we very much have the same platforms, the same policy views, and the same means of governing. So there’s a lot of updraft from that.

So you’ve been a businessman, starting one chain of successful hotels and then another, along with several other businesses — what made you want to get involved in politics?

That’s a good question. Primarily — actually, I should say solely — it’s because of Michele Bachmann.  I watched from afar and was kind of hoping that a strong candidate would come out and run against her. But I saw no one who was going to take us across the finish line.

Then, one night I was watching Chris Matthews, and he said, “Where are the good people of America, why aren’t they taking on public service roles? It’s because it’s too nasty, it’s too crazy, it’s divisive, it’s downright ugly.” That got me thinking. And I thought, “Doggonit, I’ve lived a good life. This country has afforded me an opportunity to work hard and achieve with much success, and it’s my turn to give back.”

Alex Seitz-Wald
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>