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News & Features
Campaign 2004

Candidate Bio
James Oberstar
Political affiliation:
Democratic Party
September 10, 1934
Chisholm, Minn.
Married to Jean Oberstar. Four children from his marriage to Jo, who died in 1991. Catholic.
8th District congressman. Navy civilian language teacher, Haiti, 1959-63.
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.
Links and Resources
Web site:
Document www.house.gov/oberstar/
Campaign Web site:
Document www.oberstar.org
Campaign contributors:
Document Political Money Line
Candidate Pages
District Pages

Jim Oberstar

James L. Oberstar is the dean of the Minnesota congressional delegation with 15 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.

In the 107th Congress, Oberstar remained the senior Democrat on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, where he has earned a reputation for bringing home the bacon. As of late, he's been a central figure in the debate over how to make air travel safer in a post-Sept. 11 world.

Oberstar is a critic of the Transportation Security Adminstration, saying it has moved to slow to enhance baggage screening and put federal employees at check points.

Although he's in his late 60s, Oberstar hasn't slowed a bit. He loves to ride a bike and last year he logged 2,630 miles. He likes biking so much that he's joined with other members of Congress to form a bike lobby. And he's helped Congress quadruple spending on bike projects in the last decade to nearly $2 billion, which has helped build 20,000 miles of bike trails, put bike racks on buses and establish safety programs.

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% of the vote in the three-way race, the 5th straight election in which he captured at least 65% of the votes cast. See 8th District election results.

Coleman, Oberstar lead in travel on special interests' dime
An investigation by Marketplace, American RadioWorks, and a Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism finds Rep. Jim Oberstar and Sen. Norm Coleman lead Minnesota's congressional delegation when it comes to privately- sponsored trips, paid for by special interests. Good-government proponents say free travel is one of the most abused government perks.
Republicans face uphill battle in the 7th
In Minnesota's 7th Congressional District, Republicans face an uphill struggle as they try to unseat incumbent Collin Peterson. Peterson is seeking his 8th term in the U.S. House. His challenger is David Sturrock, a Southwest State University political science professor from Marshall.
Does Congress deserve its bad rap?
The 108th Congress has been called one of the least productive in history. But one scholar says the American institution is often misunderstood.
Race for Minnesota's 2nd District takes shape
The race for President has been overshadowing some other campaigns in Minnesota. One of them is in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District. The contest between Republican John Kline and DFLer Teresa Daly mirrors many of the issues being discussed in the presidential contest. The war in Iraq is at the top of the list of issues that the two candidates are debating.
Delegation visit frames question: How best to serve?
A group of Minnesotans attending the Republican National Convention in New York spent several hours on Tuesday painting a day care center. The volunteer work was part of the Republican Party's theme of "compassionate conservatism." Minnesota Republicans say the activity highlights their belief that the government can't fix all of society's problems, and individuals need to step to the plate. Critics say while Republicans talk about compassion, Republican officials have cut much of the safety net for people in need.
Minnesota representatives get a firsthand look at the Middle East
Two of Minnesota's U.S. Congressional Representatives, returning from an eight-day tour of Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, share their impressions of the situation there.
Mark Kennedy touts experience in re-election campaign
Congressman Mark Kennedy finds himself in his third competitive race in three runs for the U.S. House. The Republican narrowly defeated an incumbent in 2000. In 2002, he ran against a well-financed challenger and now he's running against the well-known, well-financed Patty Wetterling. Kennedy has been mentioned in Republican party circles as a possible opponent to DFL Sen. Mark Dayton in 2006. But Kennedy says he's focusing on keeping his seat in Congress.
Kennedy, McCollum leave Iraq with different impressions
Finishing up a congressional trip to Iraq, Rep. Betty McCollum was struck by how fearful ordinary Iraqis were of continued violence. Rep. Mark Kennedy, on the same trip, marveled at how much things are improving.
Farmfest's congressional forum
It's an election year, so more than machinery was on hand at this summer's Farmfest. Plenty of politicians were there, too, at the Gilfillan Estate near Morgan. The event will include a variety of candidates and government officials participated in a candidate forum.
Pols get earful from educators on No Child Left Behind law
One of the architects of the federal Leave No Child Behind law faced a round of criticism on Thursday from Minnesota educators. The chair of the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee met in Woodbury with a group of principals, school superintendents and teachers to talk about concerns with federal education policies.
Congressional candidates debate trade policies
Several hundred people at a congressional debate at Farmfest on Tuesday got a preview of the fall election campaign. Candidates from several Minnesota congressional districts tackled everything from rural education to ethanol. Some of the sharpest opinions concerned U.S. trade policy.
Wetterling is working hard to raise money and attention in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District
Political junkies will be scanning the latest fundraising reports, looking to see how candidates in the most competitive races are faring. In Minnesota they'll pay particular attention to the 6th Congressional District race between Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy and DFLer Patty Wetterling. The race may come down to experience versus name recognition. Kennedy is hoping that voters will appreciate his two terms in office over Wetterling's popularity.
Wetterling's campaign theme: Children are our future
DFLers have made it official: Patty Wetterling is the party's choice to unseat Republican Mark Kennedy this fall in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. The unanimous endorsement came before Saturday's DFL state convention in Duluth.
Rep. John Kline on Iraqi prisoner abuse
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee today are expected to see more pictures and video of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. The Pentagon will make the material available for viewing in a high-security room in the Capitol. The viewing comes a day after the beheading of an American citizen was shown on an Islamic Website. The video said the killing of Nick Berg was to avenge the abuse of Iraqis by American soldiers. Minnesota Second District Congressman Republican John Kline is on the House Armed Services committee. He says it is unclear when the new images of prisoner abuse will be made public.
Wetterling jumps into broader political arena in Congress bid
Patty Wetterling made it official Tuesday, announcing her candidacy for Minnesota's 6th Congressional district. She'll run as a Democrat against incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy. Tragedy has given Patty Wetterling tremendous name recognition. In 1989, her son Jacob was abducted at gunpoint near his St. Joseph home, and he's been missing ever since. Wetterling has spent 14 years pushing for state and national legislation to deal with violence against children. Now Wetterling will need to convince people her candidacy is about more than one issue.

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