Wednesday, May 03, 2006

COLUMN -- For focused fiscal conservatism, Krinkie is the candidate

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:42 AM |  

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Note: The power of the blogosphere -- beating the MSM side of me to the punch with a Krinkie endorsement, Residual Forces and Shot in the Dark. The Wind Beneath the Right Wing goes with Bachmann.

At Saturday's 6th District nominating convention, four GOP candidates will be vying to succeed Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy (who is running for Democrat Mark Dayton's Senate seat): businessman and 14-year Air Force veteran Jay Esmay; state Sen. Michele Bachmann of Stillwater; and state Reps. Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud and Phil Krinkie of Lino Lakes.

The 6th District GOP endorsement is not so much about issues. What differences exist are more a matter of emphasis than substance. The race is not even about choosing the best candidate or the best person. All have integrity; all are electable. The race is all about choosing the type of congressman or woman best for the times we live in. For my money as a 6th District resident, that person is Phil Krinkie.

Jay Esmay makes a good case that he is the right person for the times. He emphasizes that his active-duty record gives him insight into military matters vital to the nation's security. His status as a political outsider means he'd carry to Congress no past policy baggage.

Esmay's solidly conservative on fiscal and social issues, although it's unclear, aside from national defense, where he might focus his energy. For better or worse, it's not Mr. Smith's Washington anymore; a political outsider may be a romantic notion, but given the depth of the GOP lineup in the 6th District, Esmay doesn't get top billing.

I have to preface any comments about Michele Bachmann by noting she is without hesitation my personal favorite among all the congressional candidates. I admire her philosophical integrity and personal courage in the face of some really malicious criticism. There is no candidate I'd trust more.

Bachman is a solid conservative on foreign policy and need not apologize for her record on fiscal policy. Not just a social issues candidate, she speaks fluent transportation, immigration, national defense and education policy with a strong conservative accent.

My concern about Bachmann is that her strengths are also her weaknesses. She's an articulate conservative woman good for a sound bite on ratings-rich social issues. The camera likes her, and she likes the camera. The so-called "culture war" is real, but fiscal policy is where the GOP needs undistracted leadership.

Jim Knoblach, who positions himself as the most electable fiscal conservative, has the credentials, the talent and the intelligence to be that leader. When it comes to number crunching and policy wrangling, Knoblach is the most savvy of the GOP candidates. And if you called down to Central Casting for "a congressman," they'd send up Jim Knoblach.

But as it is for Bachmann, his strength is also his weakness.

Sometimes Knoblach knows too much. He prides himself on getting things done, and that means that his ideological reach seldom exceeds his pragmatic grasp. He has a mind too soon made glad at compromise. Knoblach suffers a little from the misconception that saying "no" is not getting anything done.

Phil Krinkie, "Dr. No" to his colleagues, does not have that problem, and that gets him my nod for Congress from the 6th District.

Krinkie's ideological integrity is his strength, and it's a weakness only if one believes that turning down a request for government spending is merely a preliminary decision. Krinkie does not compromise lightly, and he sticks to his principles.

During last year's special session, Krinkie resigned as chairman of the House Working Group on Taxes in a dispute over the health impact fee. He clearly laid out his reasons.

The administration's sudden need for revenue was not a product of necessity, Krinkie told me. Revenue was required only "to satisfy the spending desires of the Legislature." It was a contradiction of the governor's position of no new taxes, a contradiction of the Republican position on spending and a point of policy on which Krinkie's integrity would not bend.

He received a lot of quiet kudos for his action.

"It's very humbling to be complimented for taking a principled stance," Krinkie said at the time. "But after the vote, who cares? Few will remember. The consolation is that I will remember. I will be accountable. I will have kept my promises."

What more could the 6th District want in a congressman? Phil Krinkie's fiscal integrity makes him the best person for Congress for the times.