Cravaack to hold town-hall meeting in Duluth
U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack will hold a hastily called town hall forum at Duluth International Airport on Wednesday afternoon. The event, set for 4 p.m. in the second-floor Skyline Room of the main terminal, was confirmed Tuesday afternoon by Cravaac...
U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack will hold a hastily called town hall forum at Duluth International Airport on Wednesday afternoon.
The event, set for 4 p.m. in the second-floor Skyline Room of the main terminal, was confirmed Tuesday afternoon by Cravaack's staff and appears to be in response to opponents' complaints that the freshman Republican congressman was dodging DFL-dominated Duluth.
On Tuesday, labor and other DFL-leaning leaders picketed a Cravaack luncheon at Grandma's Saloon and Grill in Canal Park in Duluth, where Cravaack was speaking to members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which endorsed Cravaack.
Opponents said Cravaack, R-North Branch, was ignoring "regular Duluthians" in favor of talking only to supporters or in other towns where crowds may be more conservative. They noted that Cravaack had talked to several business groups in the Duluth area recently and met with wealthy Republican donors last week in a Wayzata, Minn., fundraiser.
But when Cravaack emerged from Tuesday's meeting at Grandma's to talk with people outside the restaurant, where about 50 protestors had gathered, he conceded to their demands. In a video of the event, Cravaack, trying to talk to a woman outside the restaurant, was being shouted down by protestors when he raised his voice to ask for everyone's attention.
"You guys want a town hall?" Cravaack said. "Be at the airport tomorrow at 4 o'clock."
Chad McKenna, field coordinator for the North East Area Labor Council, said the town hall meeting is a victory for the protestors who he said are trying to hold Cravaack responsible for votes in Congress. But some said the meeting still falls short.
"For the meeting at Grandma's (Tuesday) people got a month's notice. But Cravaack gave 28 hours notice for a public town hall, held during the workday," said Zach Sias, a Duluth resident, in a statement from the North East Area Labor Council. "While he is agreeing to finally meet with constituents, he is making it as difficult as possible."
Sias said he can't attend the Cravaack meeting because of work obligations.
Michael Bars, Cravaack's spokesman, said the meeting was called Tuesday because some time unexpectedly opened up for this afternoon. Congress is on its month-long summer recess.
Cravaack told Minnesota Public Radio he has intentionally concentrated the town hall meetings on cities that don't have offices.
"I've been in Duluth a lot. I've gone to a lot of different places, I've gone to forums, I've talked to people ... I've talked to job creators," he said. "I was at the union temple before I came here, talking to the unions about how we create jobs, how we get jobs rolling in the 8th District."
But such limited access forums typically don't spark the kind of angry outbursts that have characterized town hall meetings in the past several years. In 2009, tea party activists used them as a way to galvanize opposition to the federal health care overhaul.
Newly elected Republicans to Congress learned how damaging such forums -- and the YouTube videos that result -- can be for incumbents, Washington University political scientist Steven Smith said.
"I think the Republicans this summer caught wind of the fact that Democrats intended to turn the tables on them ... that they were likely to face a firestorm, that cameras and microphones were likely to be there," Smith told MPR. "This wasn't the kind of publicity that they wanted to receive."
Bars told the News Tribune that Cravaack probably will talk for about 20 minutes this afternoon then open the meeting up for questions. He said the meeting will be scheduled for an hour but probably will go longer.
The airport town-hall meeting is free and open to anyone, but anyone driving there will have to pay in the main short-term parking lot at the airport. The Duluth Transit Authority's route 5 bus runs to the airport from the Lake Superior Zoo with stops at Lake Superior College, Miller Hill Mall, Target and Super One.