Cravaack pushes Oberstar in rare Northland Congressional horse race

Duluth News Tribune – November 2, 2010
by John Myers

It was a David and Goliath political story that drew rare national attention; the first major Republican challenge in more than a half-century in one of the nation’s most stalwart Democratic Congressional districts.

Voters from Lindstrom to Little Fork and Little Falls to Lutsen cast a referendum on 18-term Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar today with Republican challenger Chip Cravaack, a political newcomer unheard of across most of the district eight months ago, waiting in the wings.

No meaningful results from the race were available at 8:30 p.m.

A proliferation of Cravaack lawn signs, regional support from Tea Party activists, an in-house Cravaack campaign poll that showed a close race in October and national political pundits all pointed to a close race in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District.

Those factors seemed to combine with a national anti-incumbent, anti-Democrat, anti-Obama sentiment that may have filtered into Northeastern Minnesota more than before.

Until this year, Oberstar’s lowest winning percentage was 59 percent in a three-way race in 1992. But he has garnered about 65 percent of the vote most years, topping opponents by 30 points and more. He seemed unbeatable as long as he wanted to run for re-election.

Oberstar campaigned this year on staying the Democratic course out of recession, eagerly defending his support for President Obama’s stimulus package, health care reform and federal spending efforts on transportation projects — all of which Cravaack said was money misspent and federal intervention where it wasn’t needed.

Voters were as far apart on reasons for their choices as the candidates were on the issues.

“I voted for Jim Oberstar. People talk about him being in office so long like it was a bad thing. The reason he’s been a member of Congress for 35 years is because he’s done a great job,” said Julie Jeatran of Lincoln Park.

“I know people are angry and disappointed. They want things to happen, and they want them to happen right away. They want the war to be over, and they want more jobs. But these things take time. The Republicans drove us into this ditch, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride on the way out. I just don’t think it makes sense to hire the same people who drove us into the ditch to get us out,” Jeatran said.

Marie Marline was voting, for the first time ever, at First United Methodist Church in Duluth, and she was most excited about the chance to vote for Chip Cravaack.

“Chip is my man,’’ said Marline, a member of the Army National Guard, who cited Cravaack’s military background as a reason she liked him. “I guess I’m pretty conservative, like him. And I just think it’s good to get some new people in Congress. I don’t like Jim Oberstar at all. It’s time for a change.’’

Cravaack, 51, originally from West Virginia, grew up in Ohio, but has lived in Lindstrom along the southern boundary of the Eighth District since 2003. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a U.S. Navy Veteran. He moved to Minnesota as a pilot for Northwest Airlines.

He campaigned on a theme of change, highlighting his military background, his conservative roots and his desire to shrink the federal government’s reach and influence on Minnesotans. He also highlighted Oberstar’s long tenure, saying it was time for the region to make a huge political and philosophical change and send Oberstar packing.

Cravaack was outspent by Oberstar more than 3-to-1.

Oberstar, 76, first was elected in 1974 and is the longest serving member of Congress in state history. He is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that oversees railroads, shipping, the Coast Guard, highways, airports, waterways and much more.

Originally from Chisholm, Oberstar talks frequently of growing up in a mining family during the Great Depression and World War II and watching as miners struggled to organize for better working conditions, days off and health care. He says those memories have helped guide his political philosophy.

He has always been endorsed by organized labor in the district and nationally, including by the pilots union that Cravaack once belonged to as a pilot for Northwest Airlines.

Oberstar served as chief staff assistant to 8th District Congressman John Blatnik for 12 years. When Blatnik didn’t run for a 15th term in 1974, he endorsed Oberstar as his successor. Oberstar won and has been re-elected 16 times without serious difficulty. Combined, the two DFLers have held the seat since 1947.

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10 Responses

Susan Anderson

Hooray for a pilot in beating Oberstar out of office! After Oberstar raised the retirement age of pilots to 65, it’s justice that a pilot beat him out!!! Younger pilots have had to struggle because of Oberstar’s vote– my son included. Hooray!! What goes around, comes around–Oberstar!!

Joe Hesch

CONGRATULATIONS!!! I think everyone I know that I talked to about voting for Chip thought I was being a little over the top with my enthusiasm for him. Now they know why!!! As I said, I’m very proud to have served with Chip in the Navy and have every confidence he will be a great congressman.


36 years too long for Oberstar. I am proud of my home state for also picking up the state House and Senate. Now, lets make sure there is no funny stuff with the Governor’s race re-count, led by former ACORN-funded Secretary of State, Ritchie, (who sadly, got re-elected). Can’t win them all, right James?

Chip for Senate in 2014 vs. that clown Franken?

Yvonne Ekholm

CONGRATULATIONS, CHIP. I am so excited for you and your family and to know that we will have someone in the 8th District that will represent us.
Thank you for all your hard work to make it possible.

I knew when I first met you in December at our BPOU Christmas Party that you could retire Oberstar and I never lost faith in the fact that you could do that.

I would like to go to your swearing in on January 5, 2011, so is there any possibility there could be a bus load or many bus loads of your supporters going to Washington, DC?

Donna Harrison

CONGRATS Chip! You changed history! Sorry I couldn’t make it to your retirement party for Oberstar, but I bet it was a great time. I have hope for our country now. What a storm!!!

What makes you unique is that you met everyone in a grass roots level and listened to their concerns. My best to you, your beautiful wife and children, the great people like Tim and Lori, and the people of the 8th district who gave you their full support.

russ johnson

To borrow a comment from Michelle Obama, “For the first time in my life I’m proud of my Congressional District!” Congratulations Chip! DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?? YES!

Ron Abernethy

Chip, I am so happy you defeated Mr. Oberstar. He is why term limits are needed. You will be a great addition to he conservative cause. Makes me think of the saying “bad things happen when good men do nothing”. You are a very good man and I know you will have great things happen to America. Best of luck, we are all behind you.

Paul Starkovich

Way to go Chip!Alot of my friends crossed over and voted for you.Proud to have the chance to help you. Made the upcoming deer season,alot more interesting,around the card table. Great Job! The Sniper

Gregg Coons

Chip, from a classmate, congrats !

joe Olson

Your Commentsway to go Chip, I am one who “crossed over,” first time in 15 years, and am glad I did, hats off to you ,good luck God bless!!

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