Jim Graves, Democratic challenger to Rep. Michele Bachmann: The City Pages interview

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Jim Graves believes his ample business experience more than makes up for being a political newbie.
Jim Graves is coming for you, Michele Bachmann.

During an interview with City Pages, Graves -- a wildly successful businessman who created the AmericInn motel chain before founding his luxury-focused Graves Hospitality company -- suggested he probably wouldn't have launched a political career if his native 6th Congressional District were represented by somebody other than Bachmann.

But convinced that folks in his hometown of St. Cloud and throughout central Minnesota deserve better, Graves has hit the campaign trail full-speed. He took some time to chat with us about why he thinks he'll defeat the resilient Bachmann in November, what lessons he's learned as a businessman and how they apply to politics, and his legislative priorities, among other topics.

City Pages: It's been a little over a month since you tossed your hat in the ring. Is campaigning already a full-time job?

Jim Graves: It's full-time, plus. Really full-steam ahead. I typically have an interview in the morning, a meeting, talk over breakfast, then get on the phone with the press, like we're doing right now. I talk to potential backers and constituents, and meet with our staff. There's fundraisers in the evening, cocktails. I'm in business, so I'm used to working a lot of hours, but it's a pretty intense program. It's going to take a lot of energy, but that's part of my skill-set. I enjoy people -- if I didn't like people I wouldn't run.
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Graves on why he's running: "It's not a stepping stone toward becoming a high-powered lobbyist. This is purely and simply, I'm going to serve."

CP: Are you still running your business? How is it different than before you decided to run?

Graves: My son runs the day-to-day. [Before], I was spending a lot of time on my hobbies, a lot of time reading and writing, with my grand kids -- those kinds of things. I had a pretty good life, pretty much traveled the world. This is a real commitment for the common good. It's not like a step up for me.

CP: You have little political experience. How do you think your experiences in the business world have prepared you for the job of congressman?

Graves: I've never served on the city council, but I've worked with people that have. My entire life, I've been an active participant. From the other side, the attributes that make a business person successful -- listening to the people, understanding their needs, finding creative and productive solutions, keeping goals in mind and your reason for being there -- it's all about serving the people. We [at Graves Hospitality] serve our customers, staff, communities -- the same things I'm going to do when I'm in Congress, every day of the week. It's not a stepping stone toward becoming a high-powered lobbyist. This is purely and simply, I'm going to serve.

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