by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Former state Rep. Phil Krinkie, of Shoreview, is informed by family portraits on the wall.
In describing his family, Krinkie points to his grandmother, who sold vegetable shredders during the Great Depression. She started the business by arranging with a family member to sell coal door to door with her husband.
She was representative of the American entrepreneurial spirit, a spirit Krinkie views government as threatening.
“Basically, I’m a blue-collar guy,” said Krinkie, who holds a degree in urban studies. “I’m not an attorney. I’m not a stock broker. I’m not a financial planner.” He offers the “get it done” mentality of business, Krinkie said.
Krinkie is the latest Republican to join the scramble in the 6th Congressional District to replace Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
A heating and air conditioning contractor, Krinkie, 63, served eight terms in the Minnesota House before losing re-election in 2006 by 51 votes. He currently serves as a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities trustee and has maintained a conservative presence as president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.
Krinkie, whose tight-fistedness as a legislator earned him the moniker “Dr. No,” thought hard and long before deciding to run for Congress, he said.
“It comes down to one thing – what my mother often reminded: ‘Unto those much is given, much is expected,’” he said.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my life,” Krinkie said.
Still, jumping in wasn’t easy.
“It’s hard to make that decision to square off against friends and political allies,” Krinkie said.
Krinkie described his Republican rivals, former Rep. Tom Emmer, of Delano, and Anoka County Board Chairwoman Rhonda Sivarajah, of Lino Lakes, as solid Republicans and good people. Sivarajah’s daughter and his daughter used to play together in the campaign office when Sivarajah helped with his campaigns, Krinkie said. Sen. John Pederson, of St. Cloud, is another Republican seeking to replace Bachmann.
Krinkie is unsparing in his criticism of Congress.
“The U.S. Congress today is probably one of the most dysfunctional organizations in our country,” Krinkie said.
Congress skirts its main purpose, Krinkie argues.
“The No. 1 job isn’t passing an immigration bill. The No. 1 job isn’t dealing with energy or the farm bill. The No. 1 job is passing a budget,” he said.
Krinkie questioned whether the federal government is capable of constraint and argued the need for a balanced budget amendment. However imperfectly achieved, states like Minnesota benefit from constitutional requirements to balance the budget, he said.
“It’s unacceptable, in my view, that Congress can’t pass a budget,” Krinkie said.
In terms of governance, Krinkie wants to see an incremental approach to problem solving. Forget about sweeping change; focus on definable problems and rational solutions.
“Republicans are not going to realistically repeal Obamacare — draw a line in the sand and defund Obamacare,” Krinkie said of the landmark Affordable Care Act. “I certainly agree with making a stand, but you better have a Plan B.”
Krinkie looks to the budgeting proposals of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as furnishing Plan B solutions. There are basic ideas about health care everyone agrees with, he said. The question is how to pay for it.
“This is where 30 years of a business owner comes in,” Krinkie said.
Krinkie expressed a willingness to work with Democrats. Indeed, the first to call after he lost his close House race to express their condolences were two Democrats, former Rep. Tom Rukavina and former Sen. Larry Pogemiller, he said.
Often, in political negotiations, an emphasis on commonalities can produce results, Krinkie said.
When asked whether he would abide by the party endorsement, Krinkie would not say. He spoke of a day-to-day approach to his campaign, but added that endorsements should be considered in the larger goals of the party.
Krinkie’s entry into the race was not overlooked by Democratic State Party Chairman Ken Martin.
“Krinkie has become an expert at pointing out what he perceives as problems rather than offering solutions,” Martin said in a statement.
“Congress has enough people saying no. Congressional District 6 deserves a representative who will work for progress, not play politics,” Martin said in part.
Krinkie and wife Mary have a daughter, Elizabeth. Mary Krinkie works as a lobbyist, representing the Minnesota Hospital Association.
Krinkie said he thinks the clarion call of former President John Kennedy to “ask not what your country can do for you” is now being applied backwards.
He also views a perceived bias against successful, wealthy people — the job creators, he argues — as strange. “Profit is not a four-letter word,” a sign used to read in Krinkie’s legislative office.
Tim Budig can be reached at [email protected].