Cravaack’s Granite State situation adds more intrigue to MN-8

One time I was at this woeful cocktail party at a private college in Iowa. By that I mean it was a VIP gathering for college donors in which students like me were to intermingle harmlessly as a sort of living reminder of why guests paid too much to drink white wine punch mixed in front of them.

As a hazard of the evening I was paired in awkward conversation with the husband of a professor I wasn’t getting along with. I believe that he was an unemployed martial arts teacher, not that it matters but it kind of does. He asked where I was from and I said, “northern Minnesota, up on the Iron Range.”

“Don’t they mine granite up there?”

“No, iron. It’s the Iron Range.”

“Isn’t there some city up there. The Granite City?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

Anyway, long story short St. Cloud is the Granite City and that’s in central Minnesota, which is not the same thing. Don’t confuse this with the Granite State, which is even farther away (New Hampshire) and apparently where freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8) has moved his family before announcing his bid for re-election this past weekend.

We’ve been talking about the 2012 8th Congressional District race here for some time and in many ways I hesitate to go the full frenzy when we’re still in the off year. But this story is so quirky, and attention for the race is already building faster than anticipated. So here we go.

According to the Duluth News Tribune story, Cravaack’s wife Traci works in Boston three days a week. He works in Washington about four days a week during the session. They’re selling their house in Lindstrom, Minn., and Cravaack will move to North Branch, Minn., while the family lives in New Hampshire so that they can spend more time together. You will need a map to understand this.

The political challenge is that MN-8 is a big district including several distinct regions, but which is fundamentally a combination of Duluth, the Iron Range, and rural or exurban areas with fast-growing populations. While Jim Oberstar was gone a lot, maybe even more than Cravaack, the image he projected was that of traditional Range politics and no one questioned his knowledge of the region. A freshman, no matter the situation, does not have that good will built up yet. While politics might be practiced differently than in the past, I still estimate voters in this district to be mindful of a candidate’s roots and hometown.

I know that the Congressional life is particularly hard on young families like Cravaack’s and so moving his family closer to D.C. makes sense. In fact, that’s what members of Congress did for 100 years without fault until a generation of challengers, such as Cravaack, started winning races against incumbents by labeling them out of touch with their districts. I think families should stay together where possible. All of this is why it’s hard to get real people to run for these offices.

What I don’t get is why New Hampshire? Sure, it’s a popular place for Boston commuters but the first re-election campaign for any member of Congress is traditionally the most difficult. After that the odds of re-election generally rise. It is fascinating to me that Cravaack would choose an arrangement with political liabilities like this in the midst of a race that will be even tougher than the surprise victory he won in 2010.

Crazy, or crazy like a fox? As with all things these days, I suppose that depends on your politics. Regardless, I’d view this weekend’s revelation as the beginning of a story, not the end.


  1. Speaking of the Granite City…it reminds me of an MPR article a few years ago describing the “Stearns County Syndrome”

    A bartender in Stearns County stated – “people tend to gather in their “clans.” Many huddle with their wives, their cousins, their brothers. They continue to come here because their parents, their uncles, and their aunts came here”.

    A long time local called on a local phrase to describe this family phenomenon – “Stearns County Syndrome”. The term “Stearns County Syndrome” carried connotations of inbreeding.

    The reason the Range never developed this connotation, as we deservedly could have, is because Rangers were encouraged by the parents to not be afraid to leave the Range, compete in the larger world. They always had a grander, broader, more worldly perspective…like their forefathers before them.

    Hopefully we don’t close ranks and become inbred…it just ain’t healthy nor right.

    We had the courage and openness to vote for a president who’s citizenship is still in question by many I think we’re safe.

  2. Oh, my friend. Just as you were saying something very reasonable you add a birtherism. You ALMOST had me. 🙂

  3. Oberstar, for all his faults, at least had memories of the district. Cravaack doesn’t have that to any great degree and now he doesn’t have present ties. I think he’d be wise to stand down and allow a district Republican to try and defend the seat. Accept the mantle of the man who beat Oberstar (who badly needed beating) and don’t add to that the concept of Congressman who left the district and was consequently destroyed at the polls.

  4. I just don’t get NH. Move them to the Boston-most suburb of DC and claim that you are moving them to DC with you.

  5. Acela service to Boston from Baltimore is 6 hours. So much saner.

  6. That’s exactly what I almost suggested in the post. But then I thought that suggesting a train commute to a former airline pilot would just open up an argument that I didn’t want. If it were me, the train would be more appealing. You can get a lot done on those rides.

  7. Very interesting. I’ll vote for Cravaack over any of the announced DFL candidates, but I agree that this doesn’t make sense. What I really don’t understand is why Traci doesn’t get a job at Medtronic, St Jude Medical, or Boston Scientific, all of which are medical supply companies located in the northern Twin Cities suburbs. While I don’t know exactly what her skills are, one would think that any of those companies would be more than happy to give the wife of a Congressman a nice gig.

  8. It is obvious what is going on. With Chip in DC and the wife in Boston three days a week, the family situation is a mess. The obvious solution is that the wife and kids move to DC. Chip would be there for the kids all week, and the plane ride to Boston is even faster than the Acela. Only problem is that Chip and his cronies hammered Oberstar for having his family in DC, so Chip can’t do that. So he moves the family to the Boston suburbs (NH doesn’t have an income tax). It is worse for the kids and worse for the 8th than if they just moved to DC, but this way he can’t be accused of doing what Oberstar did. What a hypocrite!

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