House Races to Watch: Candidates Line up to Challenge Minn. Tea Party Freshmen
Friday, August 19, 2011
Despite a courts-driven redistricting plan that could drastically reshape Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, candidates are lining up to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack.
Swept into Congress in the 2010 Republican tidal wave, Cravaack is widely viewed as vulnerable, and a slate of accomplished candidates from the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party attests to that perceived weakness. Each challenger hopes to win the nomination and take back a district which had been held by the DFL for 63 years.
Minnesota’s 8th stretches from the northern exurbs of the Twin Cities to the Canadian border, encompassing the mining communities of the Iron Range, the northern forests and the state’s “arrowhead” region. Economically depressed over the past few decades, the district maintains a strong labor movement and economically progressive values, with tourism, mining, agriculture and shipping out of port cities on Lake Superior making up the region’s top industries.
Over the past eight months, Cravaack has been hammered by political ads that suggest he wants to end Medicare, based on his vote in favor of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that aimed to change Medicare to a voucher system, a move Cravaack’s critics said would “end Medicare as we know it.”
Cravaack’s vulnerabilities may be exacerbated by his announcement in July that he’ll be moving his family from Minnesota to New Hampshire. The move may strengthen criticisms that his ties to the district are light: In the 2010 election, he was dubbed a “packsacker,” the Iron Range term for “carpetbagger,” for living in Lindstrom, a town at the extreme southern end of the expansive district.
After winning election, he acknowledged he’d have a tough fight for re-election. He vowed to only serve four terms but acknowledged voters may only let him serve one. “I realize this is a very highly Democratic area,” he said. “I also realize there’s a lot of people that really don’t like me being here in this seat.”
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