After six months in office, Rep. Chip Cravaack announced last weekend that he will move his family to New Hampshire.
Constituents in northeastern Minnesota are absorbing the news that their congressman is moving with his wife and two sons out of the 8th District. People's reaction are mixed regarding the announcement from the first-term Republican who unseated veteran Democrat Jim Oberstar in the last fall.
Cravaack's wife, Traci, is an executive with a Boston-based medical supply company. She had already been spending time on the East Coast, and Chip Cravaack said the new living arrangement will give her more time with their sons.
The congressman will spend weekdays in Washington D.C., Saturdays in Minnesota, and Sundays in New Hampshire.
That gives Cravaack one day each week in his district while Congress is in session,
Duluth resident Erik Holmstrom said he is OK with that arrangement. Holmstrom supported Cravaack in last fall's election, and said he's satisfied with the freshman congressman's work so far.
"If he's here and spending that day listening to people and getting a good feel for the district, I think that's certainly more than we've had in the past up here," Holstrom said.
Another supporter, Brad Jensen of Bruno, doesn't blame Cravaack for adjusting the family living arrangements to promote his wife's career, but added he hopes the arrangement is temporary.
"I'm an ex-military guy so I can understand moving for your job, but it falls back on his job right now is to be our representative, so he should be from the district," Jensen said.
The Lindstrom Republican's victory last November came as a surprise. Many people said they voted for Cravaack because they felt incumbent DFL congressman Jim Oberstar had become detached from the issues of the largely rural district. Oberstar had served in Congress since 1975. People said he spent too much time in Washington and not enough time with constituents.
Not surprisingly, Democrats are more critical of Cravaack's decision to move his family out of the district. International Falls resident Diane Adams is among them.
"He says he's a father first, he seems to be trying to have his cake and eat it too," said Adams. "If his family is in New Hampshire you should resign and join your family."
The Cravaack family is not the only one moving. Former state representative Tarryl Clark, a potential opponent to Cravaack, recently bought a house in Duluth to run for the seat next year. Two other Democrats have announced they're running.
Congress-watcher Norman Ornstein from the American Enterprise Institute said he would not be surprised if a Republican decided to challenge Cravaack in the primary. Ornstein has written about the challenges people in Congress face as they try to maintain a balance between Washington and their home districts, and between work and family. He said Cravaack's decision to split his life three ways could send a signal that he's ambivalent about his job.
"I think he's putting a handicap on himself that's going to make his life more complicated and difficult and it's going to make him more vulnerable," Ornstein said.
So far this year, Cravaack has raised nearly $347,000 to finance a re-election campaign. Tarryl Clark has raised just under $155,000, and Duluth city councilman Jeff Anderson has raised $37,000.