A resident of Avon, Read is running for the seat currently held by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, who is retiring.
Read will seek the endorsement of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. No other Democrats have formally filed their candidacies, though Judy Adams of Circle Pines has said she is running.
Republicans Tom Emmer, Phil Krinkie, John Pederson and Rhonda Sivarajah are vying for the Republican endorsement.
Read got into the race because the 16-day government shutdown, when Bachmann was the only member of the Minnesota congressional delegation to vote against reopening the government.
“To refuse to fund essential government operations and threaten default on the national debt unless the other party does what one demands,” Read said, “is an illegitimate political tactic that should never be used again. Such tactics, if successful, would soon be imitated by every political party to get its way on anything.”
“Defaulting on the nation’s debt, as a small minority threatened to do,” Read continued, “would have been far worse than the shutdown, endangering a fragile economic recovery while actually increasing the size of the debt through higher interest and late-payment penalties. The way to reduce a deficit is by changing future expenditures and revenues, not by refusing to honor past obligations.”
And the problem continues, said Read: “Our shutdown politics have not disappeared but merely changed their form. Congress has not passed a budget. It has not passed a farm bill. The same battles that triggered the shutdown will resume in early 2014. The behavior of Congress will not change unless voters send a clear message they want it to change.”
Read was raised with three brothers and a sister near the small town of Chesterton, Ind., where he attended public schools. His mother, Charlotte (Johnson) Read, was the daughter of Swedish immigrants. His father, Herbert Read, went to college on the GI Bill and became an architect.
In high school, Read worked as a bus boy and dishwasher. To attend college, he took out National Direct Student Loans and won a National Merit Scholarship. During the summer he worked on a paving crew and as a seasonal employee for the National Park Service. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago, where he was the Midwest conference champion in 400-meter hurdles and played football. Jim and his wife, Pia, met in college and celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this year. He went on to earn a doctorate degree in political science from Harvard University.
For the last 25 years, Read has taught political science at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. He teaches students of all political persuasions about their rights and duties as citizens. He also writes and teaches about the ideas and arguments behind the U.S. Constitution. He is the author of three books, including “Doorstep Democracy: Face to Face Politics in the Heartland,: an account of his door-to-door campaign for the Minnesota Legislature in 1992.
Though the shutdown and threat of default on the nation’s debt drew Read into the race, his campaign is focused on expanding economic opportunity.
Read said, “I grew up believing in economic opportunity for all who were willing to put in the effort, regardless of wealth or family background. I took for granted the public investments that paved the way for me. I enjoyed good public schools, attended university at a time of generous financial aid and entered the job market without great anxiety for the future. Today the road is much more difficult for high school and college graduates just entering the job market. The students I teach every day have a harder road to travel than I did. It is equally challenging for mid-career adults seeking new employment following a layoff or relocation.”
In the last month, Read has been traveling the district, speaking to local meetings, neighborhood groups and house parties, and hearing voters’ issues and concerns.