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News Headlines
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.

Wetterling's popularity no guarantee she can win in the 6th District
Missing childrens' advocate Patty Wetterling popularity gives her a big boost in the 6th Congressional District, but she'll need more than name recognition to win and unseat Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy.
McCollum carving out niche on African AIDS crisis
Rep. Betty McCollum has traveled twice to Africa in the past year, government records show, working on AIDS issues and elevating her stature in Congress in the process. The trips by McCollum, a St. Paul Democrat, were the most high-profile privately funded travel of any Minnesota House member, travel records reviewed by The Associated Press found.
Republican congressman responds to Kerry visit
Democrats are not the only ones interested in John Kerry's visit to Minnesota. Republicans in the state are also watching the presumptive Democratic candidate for president closely as they try to help president Bush win the state's 10 electoral votes. Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer spoke with Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy, who represents the 6th Congressional District. Kennedy has been a strong supporter of President Bush.
Kennedy has company in the 6th District
Patty Wetterling, an advocate for missing and exploited children, is a DFL candidate in Minnesota 6th District. Wetterling's campaign says she filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and will start raising money right away. Wetterling is one of several candidates who will be seeking the Democratic nomination to run in the 6th District. Whoever wins the nomination will face Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy.
Wetterling mulling run for Congress
Patty Wetterling is thinking about running for Congress this fall to oust Republican Mark Kennedy. Wetterling is nationally known for the way she responded to the 1989 abduction of her son Jacob who's still missing. She helped create the Jacob Wetterling Foundation to push child safety issues at the state capitol, and in Washington, D.C. The DFL party has been recruiting her for the past couple of weeks to run in the Sixth Congressional District which stretches from the suburbs of the Twin Cities, up to St. Cloud. If she does decide to run, she will have to secure the DFL endorsement before a possible matchup against Kennedy. At least one other DFLer, Ted Thompson, has already announced his intention to get the DFL endorsement. Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer spoke with Patty Wetterling.
Rep. John Kline discusses the violence in Iraq
Another U.S. Marine has been killed in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Meantime, Shiite Muslim militias now have at least partial control over three southern Iraqi cities. What should the U.S.-led coalition do to end the violence?
Congressman Kline still supports Iraq war
One year ago, the United States started the war that eventually ousted Saddam Hussein from Iraq. In the time since the bombs first fell, politicians, activists, and citizens have debated the decision to go to war and its consequences. Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer spoke with Republican Congressman John Kline.
Minnesota suing North Dakota over hunting laws
Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch and Rep. Collin Peterson are suing the state of North Dakota over hunting restrictions. A North Dakota law passed last year restricts the first week of the waterfowl hunting season to North Dakota residents only. Hatch says the law discriminates against Minnesotans and other nonresidents.
Sturrock to challenge Peterson in 7th District
Southwest Minnesota State University professor David Sturrock said Tuesday that he'll run against 7th District Congressman Collin Peterson.
Minnesota congressional reaction to the State of the Union
Both Democrats and Republicans are reacting to the president's State of the Union address. In a nationally televised speech, Bush outlined his domestic priorities for the country and called on Americans to stand behind him in the war on terror. Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer spoke with two members of Minnesota's congressional delegation -- Republican John Kline and Democrat Betty McCollum.
John Thune challenges Daschle for U.S. Senate
Some political analysts say South Dakota's race for the United State Senate just became the closest watched race in the nation. Former Republican congressman John Thune announced his intentions to challenge Democratic leader Tom Daschle. Thune ran against Senator Tim Johnson in 2002 and lost by just over 500 votes.
Does Mark Kennedy have higher goals?
Some of the biggest political speculation in Minnesota has nothing to do with the 2004 election. Instead, it's looking ahead to 2006 when DFL incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton is up for re-election. One of the names most often mentioned as a Republican who might challenge Dayton is 6th District Congressman Mark Kennedy, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2000.
Kennedy on toll roads and current events
Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn. talks about his proposal to ease traffic congestion with toll roads, and other issues facing Congress. He also takes listener questions.
Rep. McCollum back from Iraq
Congresswoman Betty McCollum recently returned from a three-day fact-finding trip to Iraq, amidst a wave of violence in Baghdad. McCollum says there is an opportunity for democracy, stability and economic prosperity for Iraq. She says military leaders report some successes, but she says they tell her sometimes it feels like two steps forward and one step back. We talk with her about her trip.
The prescription drug wars
Elected leaders from every level of government and seven states, including Minnesota, gathered Tuesday to add fuel to what they believe is a growing national crusade to make lower-cost Canadian drugs available to American citizens. We hear President Bush's announcement about medicare and prescription drugs, and then discuss the state's plan to make it easier for people to get prescription drugs from Canada.

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