Rally against Congressman’s residency draws both sides to NB street

By MaryHelen Swanson

Young, old, in between, friendly, not quite so friendly, banners, signs and even a tiny dog were part of the scene outside Congressman Chip Cravaack’s North Branch office Wednesday afternoon.

With the announcement of new redistricting maps Tuesday, Democrats across Dist. 8 decided to hold a protest.

They wanted to draw attention to the fact that no matter how the lines are drawn, Rep. Chip Cravaack does not live in Minnesota’s 8th District.

It was their intent to highlight Rep. Cravaack’s absence from the district and the importance of having a Congressperson who is open and accessible.

Learning of this rally, local Republicans decided to join the Democrats on the public sidewalk with their own banners and signs., many denoting the public events that the Congressman has conducted in the 8th district.

The air was brisk as the sun headed west and the conversation, between sides, at time, was also.

“It’s not about where you own your house, ” said Jon Stignani from Lindstrom, “it’s what you do in Congress.”

But Democrat Dennis Johnson reminded this reporter that the Republicans “blasted” Congressman Jim Oberstar for not living in the district.

The signs held by Democratic protesters pointed out that Minnesota does not equal New Hampshire, referring to the fact that Cravaack’s wife and children are living in that state. Cravaack’s camp said he has a home across the freeway in North Branch.

The signs drew honks from the many passing cars on Main Street. The rally extended to both sides of the street as more supporters of both sides appeared after the 5 p.m. scheduled start.

Democratic rallies were expected to be held held in Duluth, Cloquet, Hibbing, Virginia, Ely, Grand Rapids, International Falls and Brainerd.
Photos by MaryHelen Swanson

Comment from Cravaack office on Feb. 22 protest at his NB headquarters:
A day after the protest, the congressman’s staff noted Cravaack lives at home in North Branch where he spends every constituent, district work week. Typically, members can return home to serve their constituents when the House breaks from voting.
His office continued:
As Cravaack’s wife was promoted and transferred, commuting proved to be too difficult of a strain on the family, while he commuted to and from Washington.
Meantime, the congressman has held 22 town hall meetings and conducted more than 200 mobile offices in cities and townships within the state’s Eighth District.
Just this week, he led a town hall meeting Tuesday night in Royalton and on Wednesday, he met with seniors for a town hall meeting in Little Falls.
“It’s unfortunate that some still cling to these disingenuous political attacks,” said Cravaack’s communications director Michael Bars in a press release. “Chip lives in North Branch, and managing time away from his family is no easy undertaking. If people can’t understand the sacrifice Chip made as a husband and father, then there’s not a lot more they’re going to see eye to eye on.”

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