Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

April 6, 2012

Minnesota congressman's move raises re-election questions


WINDHAM, N.H. — Congressman Chip Cravaack and his wife Traci did what a lot of families do after a big job promotion came through in Boston. They bought a house in upscale Windham, N.H., even though Cravaack represents Minnesota, a state 1,400 miles west of here.

And that real estate transaction is having political ramifications in his home state and in Washington, D.C. That's because Cravaack spends weekend time with the wife and their two young sons in New Hampshire while running for re-election in Minnesota.

The first-term Republican is under fire from political foes questioning his residency and ability to effectively represent his Minnesota constituents.

Cravaack ousted an entrenched Democrat in 2010 by advocating repeal of the national health-care law passed by Congress at the urging of President Obama.

His wife, an executive with a pharmaceutical company, later landed a dream promotion requiring her to work in Boston. The family decided she and their two sons would relocate to the Boston area. Cravaack also keeps a home in Minnesota.

Last summer the congressman and his wife, Traci, bought a house in Windham for $645,000, assessor Rex Norman confirmed.

The four-bedroom home, with two and a half baths and a three-car garage, was built in 2002 and is assessed at $578,100. Norman described it as a "mid-range priced home" for Windham.

Cravaack is keeping a low profile in town.

"I haven't run into him at Shaw's (grocery store) or anywhere," Bruce Breton, head of the local governing board, said. "I'm just glad he's a taxpayer in Windham."

Cravaack also hasn't been in for a haircut yet at the Windham Barbershop. But, said barber Tristin Herdt, "I'm sure it will come up. We're a barbershop."

Neighbor Lynn Goulas has met Traci Cravaack and the children but admits she hasn't seen the congressman doing chores or tending to the family yard.

"I can't say I've ever seen him, but life is busy," she said.

The Constitution says only that a person must be an inhabitant of the state they represent at the time of their election, but doesn't require residency and the courts have shot down states that have tried to make it so.

Over the years, congressmen and candidates for Congress have faced criticism over living in adjacent districts or keeping a home in the Washington area.

In Minnesota, no Republican is challenging Cravaack, but three Democrats are trying to unseat him.

"This is definitely an issue for him in Minnesota," University of Minnesota associate professor Kathryn Pearson said in an interview. "He has explained to his constituents his wife works in Boston and he has said he still gets back to the Minnesota 8th District as much as he used to."

Democrats are running ads against Cravaack on the basis of his New Hampshire home, but Heather Rubash, a spokesman for the Minnesota Republican Party, said the people of Minnesota "love him."