Two years ago we endorsed then Rep. Jim Oberstar for re-election to a 19th term. We are glad we were wrong.
Today we are proud to give our endorsement in the 8th District congressional race to Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack over Democratic Party challenger Rick Nolan.
We do so wholeheartedly, unlike our modest and lukewarm backing of former Congressman Oberstar in 2010. At that time Oberstar was able to cite his experience and seniority in a Democratic-controlled House as priorities for his re-election — even as he took pot shots at constituents who dared to disagree on issues such as global warming, calling them “flat-Earthers.”
Even then we were quite concerned with a sense of Democratic Party “entitlement” to the 8th District House seat, concerning it had been occupied by Oberstar and his predecessor, Rep. John Blatnik, for a combined more than 60 years.
And 8th District voters and others in several districts across the country that had a “D” in front of them determined two years ago that it was clearly time for a change in a big way — a Republican won in the 8th District with its heavy DFL-registered voter base; and the U.S. House easily flipped from Democratic Party to GOP.
No one is “entitled” to an elective office. The same holds true for incumbent Cravaack.
But the first-term congressman has more than earned our endorsement with his commitment to the 8th District on jobs, especially in the Iron Range’s No. 1 industry — mining. And, regarding the copper/nickel/precious metals initiatives in the region, he has been a stalwart public advocate for those projects, using his elective position of influence to do more than just provide lip service of support for them, but to actually get things done in a positive way.
No longer do 8th District residents have to get patted on their heads and hear “things are being done behind the scenes” on these issues, which was Oberstar’s style. We are all now a party to the debate and discussion — and that is most welcome indeed. And it also helps keep pressure, in a very supportive way, for nonferrous projects, which have been stymied by too much political indifference to government regulatory intransigence that has harbored preservationist groups and individuals at the cost of jobs on the Iron Range, revenues for the state and the mining of strategic metals for the nation.
Rep. Cravaack has not been wedded to right-wing Republican partisanship, as his opponents try to claim. He has bucked the GOP on several labor-related pieces of legislation. Does anyone really believe he would have received the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 endorsement if he was an anti-union congressman? That political dog of a DFL worn-out campaign tactic just won’t hunt anymore.
In fact, Cravaack has worked hard and successfully on legislation in the House that deal with the very economic future of the Iron Range — whether it is a “Buy America” stipulation for steel in the Transportation Bill, or a Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness land swap measure that would provide more timber and mining opportunities on national forest land and thereby more money in the state School Trust Fund.
Yet Nolan and his supporters have tried to, in a rather bizarre fashion, label Cravaack as a congressman who is responsible in some way with the closing of the Georgia Pacific plant in Duluth and a loss of about 140 jobs. But a former worker at the facility made it clear on Friday that Cravaack battles for jobs in the district.
“While no one is pleased with the closing of the Georgia Pacific, I find it offensive that Rick Nolan is trying to score political points over people losing their jobs. I’ve discussed the closing with Chip Cravaack personally and I know Chip Cravaack will continue to fight to bring jobs back to the 8th District,” said Steve Mickelson, a Duluth Georgia-Pacific employee.
There are, of course, some usual standard differences between the Republican and Democratic candidates in education, health care, taxes and the debt that will always play into campaigns. And we do believe it is vital that the congressman not lose sight of representing a constituency that has a traditional strong leaning to the Democratic Party; while maintaining his core conservative beliefs.
And we believe Rep. Cravaack will do just that. After all, he didn’t win with a 4,000-plus vote majority based solely on GOP votes. Quite the opposite was true. There were a lot of Democrats who had grown weary and restless with the party’s higher-ups — including union leaders — in the district treating them as if they were sheep to be led to the polls and vote as instructed.
Rick Nolan is a good man who served his country from the 6th District in Congress more than three decades ago. But 8th District voters two years ago said they wanted a change in direction for the congressional seat. The election of Nolan would reverse that needed change, while also carrying with it a major concern of his true commitment to copper/nickel/precious metals mining and the potential for thousands and thousands of jobs on the Range.
Rep. Cravaack two years ago promised 8th District constituents that he would work hard for jobs in the region; would be visible and accessible; would try to bring people together on major issues by keeping those efforts public, not behind the scenes.
He grades out on all those promises with an “A.”
Rep. Cravaack definitely deserves being rehired to keep working hard for people of the vast 8th District that stretches from the Canadian border south to bump up against the northern edges of the Twin Cities.
He has proven to be the right man for a big job in a pivotal time for the 8th District.