With Rep. Michele Bachmann under fire for her response to the explosion at Sartell’s Verso Paper Corp. mill, Sartell Mayor Joe Perske says he wasn’t impressed with Bachmann’s efforts to aid workers affected by the disaster.
Bachmann’s DFL challenger, Jim Graves, recently questioned her response to the disaster, releasing an ad charging her with not supporting Verso workers after the Memorial Day explosion.
In a subsequent release, Bachmann’s campaign called the ad a “false character smear” and said she’s worked extensively on the Verso issue. That includes keeping in contact with Verso officials, pledging to help redevelop the mill site and flying a flag over the U.S. Capitol on behalf of Jon Maus, the Verso worker who died in the explosion, according to the release.
But Perske said Bachmann’s first public visit to Sartell after the explosion, which he described as “pretty well structured,” left little evidence that Bachmann was working on behalf of the 250-plus workers laid off by the mill’s closure.
The Bachmann visit came on Aug. 9, as part of a meeting on the mill issue at Sartell City Hall. The mill’s permanent closure was announced Aug. 2.
“She did make an appearance here, I’ll give her credit for that,” Perske said. “But it was a tough sell for me to say she was sincere about it.
“Did she reach out to the workers, or was it a political campaign stop?”
During the months between the mill explosion and the closure announcement, Perske said he was contacted by a representative from Bachmann’s office, but not the congresswoman herself. Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Dayton and Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar contacted Perske personally, the mayor said.
Perske added that Bachmann arranged the Aug. 9 meeting but didn’t invite representatives from the union for mill workers, United Steelworkers.
“She is our representative,” Perske said. “A little more presence might have shown that she is in touch with what’s happening in the 6th District.”
A Monday release from Bachmann’s campaign says her office reached out to representatives for the union but didn’t specify how or when.
Perske’s mayoral office isn’t partisan, and he said he’s not an active member of any party. But Perske acknowledged to Political Quarry that his partisan preference tilts more toward Democrats than Republicans.
Perske told Political Quarry that DFLers have asked him to run for the state House under their banner, but he said he declined in part because he has reservations about getting involved in partisan politics.