U.S. Naval Academy graduate knew he was winner in 8th District Congressman Oberstar at about 4 a.m.
By BILL HANNA
November 3, 2010
Chip Cravaack and Jim Oberstar both said they wouldn’t change anything in their 8th District U.S. House campaigns. And because of that, Naval Academy graduate Cravaack is headed to Washington D.C. for a freshman camp for newly-elected House members while 18-term congressman Oberstar is headed into retirement.
The anti-Washington, anti-incumbent, anti-entitlement wave the swept across the country on Tuesday like a political tsunami lapped over Minnesota’s 8th District, claiming a before-thought untouchable veteran of Congress.
In a 45-minute telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, a triumphant yet humble Cravaack praised his impassioned supporters and said he was “honored to go to work for residents of the Eighth District.”
In a news conference a few hours earlier at his Duluth office, Rep. Oberstar conceded the election that was decided by 4,407 votes. He did so emotionally with a melancholy look back at his long career and with sadness that it will not continue.
Oberstar remained defiant in his support of President Barack Obama policies ranging from health care reform to cap and trade energy legislation that were clearly repudiated by a solid majority of voters across the country on Tuesday. The pockets of support for them were small, indeed.
His recitation of those issues in an Associated Press story read like a campaign speech for a campaign lost.
“I can’t change and wouldn’t change any of the votes I cast this year to bring us out of this worst recession, chart a course for the future, to lay a foundation for a better America, a better quality of life, a better quality of health care, rein in financial institutions, to give everybody equal opportunity and a better quality of life. I wouldn’t change any of those things,” he said.
An Oberstar aide said on Wednesday that the congressman would not return a call for a requested interview. The congressman also evidently was in no mood to talk to the election victor.
“I did not get a call from the congressman. Not a big thing,” Cravaack said when asked if he had. “But I hope to work with the congressman for a seamless transition. He knows a lot and I would like to learn from him as much as I can.”
Cravaack did receive congratulatory calls from Minnesota Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar and several Republicans, including former Sen. Norm Coleman and current Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline and Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.
The congressman-elect will travel to Washington for a “freshman camp” from Nov. 14-20. “I hope they don’t make us do pushups,” he said with a laugh.
Cravaack said he will then develop his staff in Washington and back in Minnesota. He plans to have an office in North Branch, close to his Lindstrom home. “And I can’t see us not having one in Duluth,” he said. A third one would likely be in Grand Rapids. “I plan to be in touch all the time with the people of the district. We have a great volunteer team and I look forward to serving the people of the district.”
In Mesabi Daily News interviews last Friday a few days before Election Day, Oberstar predicted a double-digit victory, while Cravaack confidently said, “We’re going to take the 8th District.”
Cravaack’s prophetic statement was based on contract during the campaign with voters, many of them Democrats.
“People came up to me while traveling the district and said, ‘I voted for Jim all my life, but not this time.’ All those comments were unsolicited,” Cravaack said.
The 8th District, however, remains unbalanced toward Republicans in registered voters. So even before the newly elected congressman is sworn in, he’s likely in the crosshairs of Democrats for 2012.
“Probably,” Cravaack said. “But there’s an underlying frequency of all of them. Many of them are conservative and JFK (former President John F. Kennedy) Democrats. They are pro-life and Second Amendment Democrats. I have an “R” by my name, they have a “D,” but we agree on a lot of issues.”
Oberstar said he’s not sure of his next venture, but he plans to “do something in the public arena.”
Cravaack, a 24-year veteran of the Navy, who also was a pilot for Northwest Airlines, will also be doing something in the public arena, but he’s much more certain of what that will be.
A chair and desk on the floor of the U.S. House await him.