WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim Oberstar today conceded a seat he has held since 1974 to Republican Chip Cravaack in an emotional news conference in Duluth.
He did not mention Cravaack by name in the roughly 20-minute news conference, though he alluded to his successor by saying it has been an “extraordinary honor and a privilege” to serve all those in his 8th District, including “those who, with dignity and respect, take an opposite view.”
There were no regrets from Oberstar, he said, either on the campaign or over tough votes taken this year on the contentious health care or stimulus laws, which Cravaack campaigned heavily against. And as it has each of his previous 18 elections, this one ended with a “thank you.”
“I say thank you again for the privilege of serving the people of the 8th District which I love and whom I love,” Oberstar said, choking up slightly.
He discussed his legacy simply by looking about through the 8th District and naming what he saw.
“The bridge over Interstate 35 at North Branch will be there long after I leave office and long after my successor leaves office,” Oberstar said, beginning to list a set of infrastructure projects that included roads, highways, railways, airports, trails, ports and paths that wouldn’t have been completed without him — a list that could have gone on for hours more that Oberstar was willing to speak.
Oberstar’s best vote, he said, came in his first term in Congress when he authored a bill to secure a cost-of-living increase for 174 retired lighthouse operators who had been overlooked in a previous bill. It came at the request of a man in Two Harbors who died days after President Ford signed the bill into law.
The man’s widow wrote Oberstar saying that her husband died “knowing that government could work, even only for one person.”
“There is much more of which I am proud,” Oberstar concluded. “Much more of which I am grate to have the opportunity to have accomplished, but I go with peace of mind and heart, but with sadness.”
“I’ve loved the opportunity to serve the people of this district.”
After the press conference, a reporter asked Oberstar’s spokesman John Schadl if this was the end of a dynasty.
No, Schadl replied. “It’s the end of an era.”