by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch sat a Perkins Restaurant in Maple Grove on Tuesday morning, June 4, an announcement in hand.
Koch was throwing her support to former Rep. Tom Emmer, of Delano, past Republican gubernatorial candidate, in the 6th Congressional District race. But that was only after considering a run herself.
“People were calling and encouraging. And that’s all very nice,” Koch said.
But Koch, 41, decided the race, put in motion by Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s decision not to seek re-election, wasn’t a good fit.
That Koch – the first woman Senate Majority Leader in state history and a key player in the historic Republican take over of the Senate in 2010 – considered a run could be seen as problematic. Area Republicans who were asked about Koch’s viability as a candidate did not return calls, offered no comment or would not speak on the record.
A lawsuit stemming from her relationship with a Senate staffer, Michael Brodkorb, lingers.
Brodkorb alleges he was illegally dismissed. She’s not involved in any legal action, Koch said.
“But I can have an opinion on how I think they (Republican Senate leaders) mishandled it. And I think they did,” she said.
Koch is willing to talk about the past — and takes pride in past political accomplishments — but does not define herself by politics.
“Definitely my outlook is forward, future,” Koch said.
Yes, Senate service is part of her — she’s grateful for it, she said. But her entire past is part of her.
“And I hope in everything that’s happened to me, I’ve learned something,” Koch said. “And I think I have.”
Koch points to family, the loss of her mother a year ago to breast cancer, as having a stronger hand in shaping her character than politics.
“That had a profound impact on what I’m doing in my thoughts, on my priorities and in my life,” Koch said.
“There were difficulties,” she said of service in the Senate.
“There’s ups and downs in everyone’s life,” Koch said. “It’s what you do with them. It’s how you pick yourself back up from a low. And it’s how you treat people when you’re on a high.”
But politics is in Koch’s blood. She says that herself.
Looking at 2012 election, a disastrous one for Republicans, Koch diagnosed Republicans as lacking a strong message. Because the Republican U.S. Senate candidate was overmatched, the ticket shifted downward, Koch argued.
“The (photo ID and marriage) amendments became kind of the de facto top-of-the-ticket,” she said.
It would inaccurate to say that did not effect the election outcome, she said.
“(But) it wasn’t any one thing,” Koch said.
Things felt different in 2010.
“There was a real sense the message was right. The candidates were right. The team was right,” Koch said, adding lack of campaign money was the only X factor.
Looking at the 6th District — it’s too early to define Bachmann’s legacy, Koch said — winning the party endorsement will be important.
Her own electoral experience tells her endorsements matter in the 6th District, Koch said.
Koch is upbeat about the governor’s race. She sees opportunities for Republicans. She would like to see a strong, conservative Republican woman gubernatorial candidate.
Life has changed for Koch since leaving office. Now divorced, Koch recently purchased the Maple Lake Bowl & The Pines Bar and Grill, a “cute little place” with eight wooden lanes in a community she’s greatly fond of.
“It’s very different than what I’ve done,” Koch said.
“You do everything,” Koch said of running a small business.
Koch’s teenage daughter Rachel has been working at the bowling alley, but her mother is encouraging her to step out of the family business over the slow summer months and try other things.
“I’m not bragging, but she’s brilliant,” Koch proudly said of her daughter.
Koch has been pursuing her own education, a single class standing between her and an MBA.
She remains active civically. On Tuesday morning, she toured the upcoming Park Nicollet Women’s Center.
She is comfortable where she is, Koch indicated. There are lots of ways of serving — it doesn’t have to be elective office, Koch said.
“There’s so much more that makes you and defines you as a person,” Koch said.
For instance, she loves elections.
“I loved recruiting candidates. I loved guiding campaigns,” Koch said.
As for running for office, the timing and everything else would have to be right.
“I already had quite a political career,” Koch said, with a chuckle. “I don’t regret it.”
St. Cloud State University Professor of Political Science Steve Frank, when asked whether Koch’s political baggage could drag her down as a candidate, said that depends in part on the office she would be seeking.
She’s probably less known in larger areas, and as time passes on, less so, Frank said in an email.
“Finally, as we see, a fair amount of people are willing to forget,” Frank said of voters.
Asked about baggage, Koch pointed to the surging state budget and strengthening state economy.
That’s based on the budget they fought for two years ago, she said.
“That’s the past that matters,” Koch said.
Tim Budig can be reached at [email protected].