U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack and former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan met on a Duluth debate stage Tuesday morning to offer the voters of the Eighth District a sharp contrast.
Cravaack, the Republican incumbent trying to hold on to a traditionally Democratic district, cast himself as the fiscal conservative in the race; working to help the miners and struggling businesses in his district, but unwilling to back spending programs that push the country closer to the "fiscal cliff." He slammed the federal healthcare reforms and called for reform of the nation's "overbearing tax code."
Nolan, hoping to return to Congress again to represent northern Minnesota as he did for three terms in the 70s and early 80s, painted the incumbent as out of touch with his district, and willing to spend big money on "wars of choice" overseas, but balking at infrastructure and stimulus spending that could help his district. Nolan also unabashedly called for universal healthcare for Americans and insisted that environmental regulations not only save forests, but create jobs.
Unlike two years ago, when the raucus Duluth debate crowd overshadowed the politicians onstage, Tuesday's debate was polite and governed by groundrules that included "no noisemakers in the auditorium."
Dozens of Nolan supporters crowded the sidewalks outside the Duluth Playhouse, waving signs with messages like "Where were you when Georgia Pacific closed?"
Dozens of Cravaack supporters, meanwhile, entered the auditorium early to secure the seats closest to the stage.