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Incoming Northern Minnesota GOP reps Cravaack, Duffy hold fast to fiscal pledges

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

DULUTH - Congressmen-elect Chip Cravaack and Sean Duffy stuck to the message of fiscal conservatism on Tuesday in their first joint news conference.

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The two Republicans from the 2011 freshman class met with Duluth Seaway Port Authority director Adolph Ojard and later chatted with him for a photo opportunity on snowy Garfield Dock C. In between, the two joined Ojard to meet with reporters.

It's the first time since 1974 that such a conference didn't involve Democratic stalwarts Jim Oberstar of Minnesota and Dave Obey of Wisconsin. Ojard acknowledged that their clout would be missed, but he was philosophical about the change.

"I think it's obvious that we enjoyed some very senior representatives and the help that they could give us," Ojard said. "But, by the same token, we knew there would be a transition at some point."

Both Cravaack and Duffy followed the script, touting the port's value to both Cravaack's Minnesota 8th District and Duffy's 7th District in Wisconsin, but didn't offer specifics. Asked about the delayed proposal for a 1,000-foot lock at the Soo Locks, Cravaack said, "That's something we're learning about just today. We know that the infrastructure is aging. And that's something we definitely have to take a look at to promote the economy on the Great Lakes."

Both Cravaack and Duffy wore dark suits with identical U.S. flag pins in their lapels. They joked easily with each other as if they were longtime comrades. When Cravaack listed several committees he'd like to serve on, Duffy quipped, "He wants all the committees, I guess."

If there was a slight difference, it was in the area of earmarks, those spending measures added to bills by individual members of Congress to benefit their districts. Duffy noted that he was the one who introduced a resolution in the Republican conference to ban earmarks.

Cravaack didn't directly embrace the ban, saying there had been "a very good debate afterwards. The message I took away regarding earmarks (is) we have to separate what's needed versus what's wanted."

Cravaack responded in much the same way the day after his upset defeat of Oberstar when he was asked about several projects in the pipeline involving Duluth, such as the Northern Lights Express high-speed railroad and a hiking/biking link between the Munger Trail and Duluth's Lakewalk.

Cravaack said he had discussed such issues with Duluth Mayor Don Ness on Tuesday, but didn't suggest he had changed his position. "Is it a need or a want and can we afford it?" Cravaack said. "That truly is the bottom line. ... Mayor Ness understands that as well."

Regarding their experiences at freshman orientation, Duffy noted that freshmen will make up one-third of the Republican conference and won't get "rolled over by the leadership. ... I think a lot of folks will recognize that this is not the Republican Party, at least in regards to leadership, that we had six or eight years ago," he said.

Cravaack added: "Speaker (John) Boehner (of Ohio) was very receptive to us and really listened to us, and I think he also was hearing the nation as well."

On a more personal level, both men expressed dismay at the cost of living in the Washington area, with rentals for modest efficiency apartments running $1,300 to $1,500 per month. "I have six kids and I haven't had a paycheck since June, so I'm going to live quite frugally in D.C.," Duffy said. "I'm going to opt to sleep in my office."

The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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