Anne Nolan formally announced her bid for Minnesota’s 6th-district House seat on March 9. The following Monday, she was still her own campaign manager and press secretary, a one-woman-show without an official website. This level of organization places her in a very different league from her competition: Rep. Michele Bachmann, the incumbent and former presidential candidate seeking a fourth term.
Nolan, a 52-year-old attorney who does workplace consulting, says her campaign slogan is, “This is what opportunity looks like.” In her case, the opportunity is using Bachmann’s national recognition to draw attention to the issues Nolan wants to discuss—how to help people in foreclosure, how to better deal with student debt, how to get Wall Street to pay for the financial crisis. In 2004 and 2010, Nolan unsuccessfully ran for a Minnesota statehouse seat. Now she’s running for a congressional seat in a remapped but still Republican-leaning district. “I understand that this is a heavy lift,” she says.
Nolan will need a lot of support to compete with Bachmann, who raised more money than any other U.S. House candidate in 2010, a race which she won by 13 points. Nolan will find out in the coming weeks if she’s won the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party’s endorsement in Minnesota, an important early step.
But the fact that Nolan, an anti-abortion Democrat, counts herself as a supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement has already drawn Bachmann’s attention. The congresswoman sent out a fundraising letter on Friday, telling her mailing-list that Nolan clearly favored a “lazy handout culture” of big government, before asking for donations to help defeat her “Occupy Wall Street opponent.”
At this early stage, such attention from Bachmann is good for Nolan, legitimizing her as competition, and Nolan says some who have seen Bachmann’s slights have started asking how they can help. “If [Bachmann] wants to say we’re radical,” Nolan says of the 99%, “let’s have that conversation.” And if that conversation can kindle electoral enthusiasm from Occupiers, it will help indicate what the movement’s role could be in 2012.