WASHINGTON — Chip Cravaack may have left Minnesota, but the issues and politics of the district he used to represent in the U.S. House are still on his mind.
Cravaack, a Republican, was travelling through the 8th District on Monday to promote Scott Honour, the businessman he’s endorsed for governor, when he stopped by a Duluth fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Chris Dahlberg. Cravaack, who said he’s been studying up the slate of candidates looking to challenge Sen. Al Franken, ended up endorsing Dahlberg on the spot.
“I listened to Chris today, and I said you know, he’s the guy,” Cravaack said in a phone interview. “I said, you know what, I’m going to contribute to your campaign, and I’d be honored to endorse you.”
Cravaack said he worked closely with Dahlberg, a St. Louis County commissioner from Duluth, when he served in the House in 2011 and 2012, so he knew Dahlberg and his platform extensively coming.
“There are really good, qualified candidates and we’re very fortunate to have that,” Cravaack said. “But Chris is who I have a relationship with. He has been a servant of the people for a while and he has done very well up in the 8th District. He’s the kind of guy you want to send to the Senate.”
In deciding to endorse Honour and now Dahlberg, Cravaack is relying on what he knows best — the 8th District. During his congressional tenure, he worked with Dahlberg on issues like mining and the permitting process for PolyMet, a controversial copper and nickel mining project awaiting government approval, and Cravaack said “his heart’s in the 8th District.”
Honour, he said, called him about a year to ask for advice on the district’s major environmental-based industries like precious metal and taconite mining.
“What’s good for the 8th is what’s good for Minnesota, and he understands that,” Cravaack said. “I wanted to make sure before, when we were talking, that Scott was very informed on how important the 8th District is, and he agrees.”
After shocking 36-year incumbent Jim Oberstar in 2010, Cravaack served a single term in the House before now-Rep. Rick Nolan ousted him by nine points in 2012. In running for re-election, Cravaack often said he envisioned turning the 8th into the “Bakken fields of precious metals,” and he said Monday that statewide candidates should make a point to emphasize the northern Minnesota economy in their campaigns this year.
“If they’re not [focusing on the 8th] then somebody’s not listening and they’re getting really bad advice,” he said.
Cravaack moved to New Hampshire after he left Congress to be with his wife, who works in Boston, and his children. But he said he stays in touch with the district and he still follows Minnesota politics from afar. He’s now endorsed candidates for both major statewide races this year, and he’s also backing Stewart Mills, Nolan’s Republican challenger.
“On my phone, I still have the weather reports for Lindstrom and Duluth,” he said. “My heart is here, and I pay attention and I really want the best for the 8th District.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry