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Our view: Cravaack says politics killed PolyMet deal

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opinion Duluth, 55802
Duluth News Tribune
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Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

Nearly two years after losing his bid for re-election, former U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack said Monday it still “frustrates me like crazy” that legislation to complete a land swap and to streamline permitting for PolyMet Mining fell short, a victim of politics if there ever was one.

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“To me it was black and white. This is a good thing for Minnesota. It’s good for the 8th District. Explain to me why you would be against this. The politics part of it ticked me off when I was out there,” Cravaack told members of the News Tribune editorial board while in the midst of a weeklong swing through the state to promote Scott Honour for governor and other Republican candidates in this fall’s mid-terms.

“It frustrates me like crazy, I can’t tell you. Because we were so close to that deal on PolyMet, so close to that land swap. We wrapped it up and put it in a nice little bow and said, ‘Here you go (U.S. Sens.) Al (Franken) and Amy (Klobuchar), your turn. I got it through the House; you take it in the Senate.’ We couldn’t get them to even call us back,” Cravaack said. “I didn’t even care if they got the credit. I actually said to Al, ‘I don’t care who gets the credit here; let’s just get this passed.’ And they still wouldn’t take it.”

That was because, in the eyes of Democrats, as the argument can be made, Cravaack was a Republican who couldn’t be allowed to succeed and who had to be defeated in the 2012 election.

So, today, PolyMet, despite its promise of hundreds of good-paying jobs and tens of millions of dollars of transformative, community-bettering economic impact, remains just a proposal. In the category of opportunities-missed, PolyMet is Minnesota’s Keystone XL, Cravaack suggested.

And Cravaack himself is a one-term-and-done congressman who lives now in New Hampshire and who is on the board of advisers for Hunter Wimberly, an Irving, Texas-based border security company.

“It was tough” to lose to U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, Cravaack said when asked about the 2012 vote. “Defeat is tough. You’re standing up there all by yourself saying, you know, I’m conceding and wishing Mr. Nolan the best and promising a seamless transition. … I know that we couldn’t have worked any harder (to win). A week prior, we were 10 points ahead. I don’t have a clue what happened. I don’t know.”

Clearly the polling was flawed and shouldn’t have been trusted. A bigger, end-of-the-race push from the Republican National Committee could have helped.

But that’s in the past and Cravaack has moved on, he said. Despite having stepped back from politics, that includes this week of promoting Republican colleagues. After the DFL’s tax-happy overreach last year — including more than $2 billion in new taxes, a trio of business-unfriendly taxes, a gift tax that was just the second of its kind in the country and a slipped-in multimillion-dollar office building for the state Senate — he sees DFL Gov. Mark Dayton as a quite-vulnerable incumbent.

“If I was a voter, I’d be looking, ‘How was Minnesota four years ago and how is it now?’ I’d say it’s worse,” Cravaack said. “It’s not about Dayton. It’s about what Scott (Honour) can bring to Minnesota, because I think he has a vision. He has a way. He has ideas. This guy can do it, get it done. I tell you what; we’re going to drive ourselves into the ground just like Detroit did if we don’t start working as a team.”

And stop playing politics to the detriment of the public good.

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