By Peter Passi, Forum Communications
DULUTH — Rep. Chip Cravaack and his DFL challenger, Rick Nolan, chose very different venues Wednesday for public appearances in Duluth after Tuesday’s primary election determined the makeup of the race for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District.
Cravaack chose the London Road Rental Center as his backdrop, while Nolan addressed a crowd of supporters at the Duluth Labor Temple.
The two candidates wasted little time in drawing sharp distinctions between one another.
“I think at the end of the day that Rick and I want what’s in the best interests of the 8th District, but we have very different ways of getting there,” Cravaack said. “Rick is more of a big government, more taxes, more spending, more regulation kind of a guy. And I’m the opposite. … I see government more to be the problem.”
Nolan agreed that while they share many of the same goals for the district, he and Cravaack have far different visions of how to proceed. In particular, Nolan pointed to Cravaack’s continued support of a budget plan developed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Nolan said he would not support any proposal such as Ryan’s, which would replace today’s Medicare with a private voucher system.
Nolan also said he would not support tax reforms supported by Cravaack.
“The Ryan budget plan calls not just for a continuation of the Bush tax cuts but would provide even deeper tax cuts for the super-rich in this country, which according to analysts would exacerbate the deficit we’re looking at and result in an increase in taxes for the average person. That’s not the direction that we need to go. We need to rebuild the middle class, create jobs, and I think we’ve got the message and the plan that will get us there. Not the Ryan budget plan.”
Instead, Nolan has supported allowing Bush-era tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000 per year to expire.
Cravaack said this would be a bad idea with serious consequences.
“The 8th District of Minnesota is small business. Seven out of 10 people nationally are employed by small businesses. I would say that’s higher in the 8th District of Minnesota. It’s so important we understand this. And the taxes that are being proposed by the president — taxing all those who earn more than $250,000 — that’s going to directly affect small businesses in the 8th District. Because the majority of those businesses are S corporations or LLCs (limited liability corporations),” Cravaack said.
If taxes on small businesses go up, Cravaack predicts they will either need to raise prices or let people go.
“This tax, according to Ernst & Young’s most recent report, says there are 710,000 jobs that will be placed in jeopardy because of the taxes on (people earning) $250,000 or above,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cravaack said the additional revenues generated by the proposed tax on higher-income individuals will provide only enough funding to run the federal government for eight days.
“I don’t think that’s a very good return,” he said.
Nolan said he’s sensitive to the needs of small business and would gladly put his credentials up against Cravaack’s.
“If we want to compare our business records, I guess that I’m probably the most pro-business,” Nolan said. “I’ve been in business for the last 30 years of my life, running and operating a saw mill and a pallet factory, an export trading center, a building and world trade center. “
Ken Martin, DFL Party Chair, appeared with Nolan and his former competitors, former Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson and former state Sen. Tarryl Clark, at a “unity council” meeting in Duluth Wednesday and offered a harsh assessment of the incumbent congressman.
“I think it’s important to remember that Chip Cravaack has done nothing to represent the people of the 8th Congressional District. This guy is a guy who has voted along with Paul Ryan and other Republicans in Congress to end Medicare as we know it. This is a guy who at the end of the day has put the interests of the far right ahead of the interests of the middle class. And we have to remind voters of that.”
Cravaack pledged to fight for jobs in Northeast by helping to cut through burdensome regulations.
He said Polymet has spent eight years and $42 million so far working to gain needed permits for a copper-nickel-precious metals mine it hopes to develop north of Hoyt Lakes. Cravaack said the Polymet project combined with another proposed by Twin Metals stand to create 2,000 jobs.
Cravaack suggested Nolan was a supporter of government regulation to the detriment of economic growth.
Nolan disagreed, saying: “I’m a businessman, and I’ve heard those arguments year after year after year. We’ve never had any problems meeting the OSHA requirements or the EPA requirements for running our sawmill and our pallet factory or any of the other business activities I’ve been engaged in.
“Responsible businessmen and businesswomen don’t want to pollute the air and the environment. They don’t want to cause harm and damage to their employees. They just want to know what the standards are and what’s the best way to ensure the protection of health and safety and the environment. And they go ahead and they do it.”
By Peter Passi, Forum Communications