Cravaack, Nolan spar over ads and voting recordsby Brett Neely, Minnesota Public Radio
WASHINGTON — The ads are flying in the 8th District Congressional race between incumbent Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack and his DFL challenger, former Rep. Rick Nolan.
But one ad from the DFL party won't be airing on a Duluth-area TV station. The ad claims Cravaack doesn't live in the district. WDIO pulled the ad at the Cravaack campaign's request.
A separate Nolan-produced ad makes the same claim, but has to be pulled by any station.
"That's just not the Minnesota way. But maybe he doesn't know that because he's not from here and he doesn't live here anymore," Nolan says in the ad.
That's not actually true. While Cravaack's family moved to New Hampshire last summer, Cravaack owns a home in North Branch and is there regularly. But Nolan's campaign manager Mike Misterek said it's a valid issue in part because Cravaack brought it up himself in his successful campaign against DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar in 2010.
The Nolan-produced ad:
"He may technically own a house here, but his family lives in New Hampshire and he spends time in Washington, but you can't have it both ways," Misterek said. "Two years ago in a campaign, you can't talk about residency being an issue and then act like it doesn't matter when it comes to you having that issue."
The first-term congressman and his allies have been making their own charges against Nolan. At their most recent debate in Cambridge last week, Cravaack brought up Nolan's more than 30-year-old voting record from when he last served on Capitol Hill.
"In the last years you were in Congress, you missed one-third of your votes," Cravaack said. "And in the year prior to that you missed a quarter of your votes."
Cravaack's claim holds up. Starting in the spring of 1979 during his final term, Nolan missed the most votes of any of the eight members of Minnesota's U.S. House delegation at the time. During the debate, Nolan argued that Cravaack is cherry-picking his record.
"We had a heck of a of a lot more votes than your Congress ever did and I was always there for the important issues," Nolan said. "I missed a few votes on the recording of the minutes and the naming of post offices but when the critical issues were up, I was there."
But neither part of Nolan's defense fully holds up.
The Congress Cravaack currently serves in has actually held more roll call votes than the one in Nolan's final term in office. And as Cravaack's campaign points out, some of those votes Nolan missed include major spending bills.
Neither Nolan nor his campaign manager would explain why Nolan was so absent in his final term. Misterek calls the whole issue a distraction.
"They're trying to talk about votes 30 years ago that were of very little relevance to the job of the congressman," Misterek said.
Congressional scholar Norm Ornstein at the American Enterprise Institute said the question of whether or not a representative was on the House floor to cast a vote usually does matter to voters.
"Voting on the floor is the one sure-fire indicator of the job members of Congress do," Ornstein said.
That said, Ornstein said many other parts of the job such as working on committees, drafting legislation and helping constituents might actually be more important than individual votes. The barrages and counter-barrages of negative stories about the two candidates are no surprise to analyst Jessica Taylor at the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.
"I think that when you're looking at such a close race, you have each side using anything they can that can move even a slight number of voters," Taylor said.
And while the tone of the campaign between Cravaack and Nolan has been decidedly negative, Ornstein said in relative terms, "Minnesota Nice" still prevails in the 8th District.
"Actually in many other races, it's gotten much nastier than that," he said.
But with less than two weeks left until Election Day, Ornstein said there's still plenty of time for more charges and countercharges.