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8th District: Jim Oberstar


SNAPSHOT
James L. Oberstar is the dean of the Minnesota congressional delegation with 16 terms under his belt. He is the longest-serving member of Congress in Minnesota's history. The seniority has brought a powerful committee position and more clout than other politicians from the state. He has an independent streak and is perceived as something of a maverick.

Creole-speaking Oberstar, who served the U.S. Navy in Haiti, came to the House in 1974, seeking to succeed Rep. John Blatnik, his former employer. He lost the DFL endorsement for the seat to state Sen. Tony Perpich, but ran in the primary and defeated Perpich handily.

He had few serious challenges in his subsequent re-election bids. In 1984, he lost a primary bid for the U.S. Senate.

His district is one of the nation's largest. It stretches north from Chisago and Isanti counties in east-central Minnesota, through Duluth and the Iron Range to the Canadian border. He opposes abortion and is against the death penalty.

James Oberstar was elected to the U.S. House in 1974 with 62 percent of the vote. He has been re-elected 14 times, all with ease. Oberstar's three most recent contests are prime examples. In 1998 he defeated Republican Jerry Shuster with 66 percent of the vote in a race that also featured Stan "The Man" Estes. In the 2000 general election he faced another nicknamed challenger, "Cowboy" Bob Lemen, a native Texan who has settled in Grand Rapids. He beat Lemen with 68 percent of the vote. He outspent Lemen $1 million to $22,000. In 2002, he again beat Lemen by a 69-to-31-percent margin.

In 2004, Oberstar faced Mark Groettum, a Republican, and Van Presley, a member of the Green Party. Oberstar cruised to re-election, capturing 65 percent of the vote in the three-way race, the 5th straight election in which he captured at least 65 percent of the votes cast.

Candidate Bio

James Oberstar
Political affiliation:
DFL Party
Born:
September 10, 1934
Chisholm, Minn.
Personal:
Married to Jean Oberstar.
Four children from his marriage to Jo, who died in 1991.
Catholic.
Occupation:
8th District congressman. Navy civilian language teacher, Haiti, 1959-63.
Education:
Bachelor's degree from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., in 1956 and a master's degree from the College of Europe in Belgium in 1957.
Major political experience:
Administrative assistant to Rep. John Blatnik, 1963-74; Elected to U.S. House of Representatives, 1974.

Show Appearances

Audio MPR's Stephanie Hemphill interviews Oberstar.
(9/23/06)

Campaign Finances

Total contributions
$1,198,362
Total disbursements
$943,938
Cash on hand
$479,734
Source: Federal Election Commission. October 2006

Links and Resources

House Web site:
Document Rep. Jim Oberstar
Campaign contributors
Document Political Moneyline

Candidate Pages

Coleen Rowley accused John Kline of "blind loyalty" to the Bush administration. Kline accused Rowley of violating her own call for integrity. (10/04/2006)
Minnesota's 1st Congressional District race has heated up. In a part of the state that has voted Republican for years, a Democratic challenger may have a chance. (10/04/2006)
Familiar names face off in the 8th District race this year. Long-time incumbent Democrat Jim Oberstar faces a challenge from Republican Rod Grams, the former TV news anchor who served both in the U.S. House and Senate. (10/02/2006)
The three candidates for Congress in Minnesota's 6th district offered distinctly different views and sharp exchanges on health care, taxes and the war in Iraq in a debate Thursday night. (09/21/2006)
The candidates for Minnesota's 6th Congressional District seat met for their first debate before a large audience Monday night in St. Cloud. (09/19/2006)
The three major-party candidates running for Congress in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District met in their first debate since Tuesday's primary. (09/15/2006)
Alan Fine is trying to do what Keith Ellison's DFL rivals couldn't: capitalize on reports of Ellison's past. Fine calls Ellison "unfit" to serve. (09/13/2006)
The seat has been dominated by DFLers for decades, but Ellison's Republican opponent in November says he'll question Ellison's character, a campaign theme that was used over the summer by Ellison's DFL opponents. (09/13/2006)
As the primary election nears, two of the DFLers running for Congress in Minnesota's 5th District say one of their opponents, Mike Erlandson, has gone negative. Erlandson sent out a mailing asking voters if Keith Ellison is above the law, and if Ember Reichgott Junge is out of touch with the district. (09/07/2006)
Former DFL Party Chair Mike Erlandson is touting the endorsement of one of the leading critics of the war in Iraq in an attempt to distinguish himself among the DFLers running for Minnesota's 5th Congressional District seat. (09/01/2006)
Midday hosts a live Minnesota State Fair debate between four of the DFL candidates hoping to succeed U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo in the House of Representatives. (Midday, 08/24/2006)
The DFL candidates in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District are busy campaigning just weeks before primary election day. Four of them will appear at debate at the Minnesota State Fair with the hopes of attracting DFL support. (08/24/2006)
President Bush mixed policy and politics into a four and a half hour trip to Minnesota Tuesday. The president led a panel discussion on health care in Minnetonka and later appeared at a fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Michele Bachmann in Wayzata. (08/23/2006)
U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht will keep his place on the Sept. 12 primary election ballot after the state Supreme Court swiftly turned back a challenge to the petitions he used to qualify. (08/22/2006)
Increasing crime in Minneapolis is fueling concerns about public safety in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, which includes the city and several suburbs. Candidates in the race for that seat are responding with a string of public safety proposals. One DFLer has even gotten the endorsement of Hennepin County's Republican sheriff. (08/01/2006)