By Catharine Richert
State Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, says incumbent Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is spending too much time traveling the nation, and should stick closer to home because her district's economy is suffering.
"We have the highest unemployment, highest foreclosure rate in the state," Clark said on the June 21, 2010, episode of Hardball with Chris Matthews. "All the while she's seeking celebrity status, and off following her own agenda instead of fighting for people of the sixth district."
It's become one of Clark's key talking points against Bachmann, and she repeats it often.
While Clark correctly points out that the 6th District has the highest foreclosure rate in the state, her claim that it also has the highest unemployment rate is wrong.
Calculating foreclosure and unemployment rates by congressional district is tricky because district borders do not always fall on county lines, and Minnesota determines the rates by county. The 6th District includes Benton, Sherburne, and Wright counties, half of Stearns County and most of Anoka and Washington counties.
Including all of Stearns County, the 6th District has a foreclosure rate of 1.76 percent, according to HousingLink, a Minneapolis-based organization that regularly crunches the state's foreclosure numbers.
The district's actual foreclosure rate likely is somewhat less given that half of Stearns County is in the 7th District. Nevertheless, by this measure, Bachmann's territory comes out on top.
At most, the 6th District's unemployment rate is 6.76 percent. That's far less than the 8.25 percent average unemployment rate for the 8th congressional district. In fact, since Clark declared her intention to run against Bachmann in July of 2009, the 6th District has never had the highest unemployment rate in the state.
Clark is actually referring to Workforce Service Area 5, one of 18 workforce training areas designated by the state, said Clark spokeswoman Carrie Lucking. But there's a problem with that explanation: Only two of the 11 counties in this area are in the 6th District, so most of the territory is out of Bachmann's control.
Clark's claim that Bachmann's territory has the highest foreclosure rate in the state is correct.
However, her claim that Bachmann's district has the highest unemployment rate is wrong. Even if Clark is referring to Workforce Service Area 5, it only contains two of the 6th District's counties, so that's not a fair comparison.
As a result of PoliGraph's analysis, Clark's campaign will begin saying that the 6th District has some of the highest employment rates in the state, Lucking said.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Clark sets full attention on unseating Bachmann, by Mark Zdechlik, June 9, 2010
Hardball with Chris Matthews, June 21, 2010, episode
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, unemployment rates for counties in the 6th Congressional district, accessed June 23, 2010
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, unemployment rates for counties in the 8th Congressional district, accessed June 23, 2010
HousingLink.org, Foreclosures in Minnesota: A Report Based on County Sheriff's Sale Data, Feb. 2010, accessed June 23, 2010
Minnesota Independent, Bachmann's district continues to lead state in foreclosures, By Andy Birkey, Dec. 1, 2009
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, profile of Work Service Area 5, accessed June 23, 2010
Interview, Carrie Lucking, spokeswoman for Tarryl Clark, June 23, 2010
PoliGraph is a regular series of reports that checks the veracity of politicians' claims. It is a collaboration between Minnesota Public Radio News and the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.