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Controversial conservative Bachmann survives close House race

U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) addresses the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPA
U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) addresses the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPA

By David Bailey

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Representative Michele Bachmann, known for her outspoken opposition to gay rights and abortion and a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, was confirmed on Wednesday as the winner in a congressional district redrawn in her favor.

The champion of the Tea Party movement edged out businessman Jim Graves by just 4,207 votes, or a little over 1 percent of the 357,035 votes cast in the Minnesota 6th Congressional District, according to the final unofficial results from the Secretary of State.

On Wednesday morning, Graves conceded the race and congratulated Bachmann on her victory. His campaign confirmed it would not ask for a recount.

A campaigner for smaller government and opposed to abortion and gay rights, Bachmann was running in what has been regarded as the most conservative-leaning district in Minnesota.

Her bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination raised her name recognition nationally, but left her vulnerable in her race for a fourth term to accusations by Graves that she was not representing district interests.

Some of her remarks, including an insistence on a link between an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Muslim Brotherhood, were denounced by some in her own party.

Bachmann, a former Minnesota state senator, had never won more than 53 percent of the vote in the district and won by only 3 percentage points in the presidential election year of 2008.

The redrawing of districts after the 2010 census put Bachmann, who lives in Stillwater near Minnesota's border with Wisconsin, outside of the sprawling district that takes in suburbs to the east, north and west of Minneapolis and St Paul and stretches northwest to include farms and smaller cities.

It was the nation's most expensive House race in terms of both money raised and spent by the candidates as of mid October, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The candidates had raised a total of $22.7 million and spent $20.8 million, the center reported, but Bachmann outspent Graves by more than 12 to 1.

Bachmann sought to tag Graves, founder of the AmericInn hotel chain and now the head of Graves Hospitality, as a supporter of President Barack Obama's health reform law in television ads early in the campaign.

Graves criticized Bachmann as ineffective in Congress. Bachmann responded by running commercials that portrayed the herself as focused on the needs of district residents and able to work across party lines to reach goals.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and David Brunnstrom)

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