Graves sings competitive tune in 6th District

Jim Graves was a guitar playing surprise at his own star-studded sing-along fundraiser one night last week at the Paramount Theatre in St. Cloud.

Graves, the DFL party-endorsed candidate who is opposing incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, accompanied his wife Julie who sang to him, “The First Time I saw Your Face.” He said it’s the first time the two have sung together in 30 years.

(Graves and his wife earned a living performing as professional folk musicians in venues in the Sixth District, while he was completing his degree in Education at St. Cloud State University.)

While the event was harmonious, Graves’ campaign chair, son Adam, had a discordant message for Bachmann, wondering why she hasn’t responded to their invitation to debate, sent by certified mail a month ago.

“It’s hard to respond when she’s out in Washington D.C., New York and giving speeches outside her district,” said Adam Graves. “We’d like to have a series of debates with her in all regions of the district, but so far not one debate is scheduled.”

Bachman Campaign Manager Chase Kroll said Wednesday that Rep. Bachmann is looking forward to debating Graves, and he said the first debate is being scheduled, and could be announced this week.

The Graves campaign will accelerate after the Labor Day holiday, although his chair says Graves has been well received at all the ice cream socials, parades and county fairs he’s attended this summer.

Sixth District Chairman Bill Usher of Ham Lake, who was at the sing-along, said Graves needs to tap into the anti-incumbency mood among voters with his message that he is a successful businessman.

“The Sixth District has a higher rate of unemployment compared to the rest of the state and Jim can do the job of improving the lives in his district,” Usher said. “Our current representative hasn’t done anything like that.”

On his website, Graves promotes himself as a businessman who has built more than a hundred businesses and creating thousands of private sector jobs in small towns and cities throughout the Sixth District and across the state. His business, Graves Hospitality, founded the AmericInn motel chain.

Graves struck a high note at the Sing Along, saying he intends to run a positive campaign.

“It’s time we come together as a country and that we find solutions to real problems. Everything that’s wrong with America can be fixed with what’s right with America.”

The performers at the Sing Along included the George Maurer group, Dan Chouinard, Prudence Johnson, Maria Jett, Ann Reed, Pat Curto, the Reynold Philipsek Trio, Paul Drinkwine, Anna Mae and Fred Vagle and Lee Vague.

Volunteers in the lobby were selling T-Shirts for $25 dollars that said, “I dig Graves.” Observers wonder how many votes he can dig up.

Don Heinzman