MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Republican Rep.-elect Chip Cravaack said Monday that he will push to open two new precious metals mines in northeastern Minnesota as he prepares to take office after unseating 18-term Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar.

Speaking to Republican donors in Minneapolis, Cravaack outlined his strategy for staying in office past 2012: frequent appearances in the 8th District and support for the proposed mines near Hoyt Lakes and Ely. The incoming member of Congress said his first meeting after the election was with Polymet Mining Corp. CEO Joe Scipioni.

Polymet aims to mine deposits of copper, nickel and other precious metals using the former LTV Steel Mining Co. plant near Hoyt Lakes. Another precious metals mine is in the works near Ely under a joint venture between Chilean mining company Antofagasta and Duluth Metals Ltd. Both still need to clear environmental hurdles.

“This is an unbelievable asset that we have, but government has been in the way for us to tap those resources, and that is my No. 1 goal in the 8th District,” Cravaack said.

As the first Republican sent to Congress from northeastern Minnesota in more than 60 years, Cravaack said he expects to be a top Democratic target in 2012. The state GOP already counts his upset among their biggest successes for 2010. The Elephant Club, a dues-paying group of Republican insiders, gave him a standing ovation before he even started speaking at Monday’s luncheon.

“I don’t know if people who aren’t from the Range understand what a miracle this is,” Mary Ann Nelson of Minneapolis, originally from the Iron Range mining city of Eveleth, said before urging those in the room to donate to keep Cravaack in office.

Cravaack fielded friendly questions, telling the audience he’s been reading “You are here” maps to find his way around Capitol Hill.

“Since the election — you know they talk about the learning curve. Well, this has been a vertical ascent,” he said.

Cravaack said he is focused on bringing down the national debt, improving the economic climate for small businesses and undoing the health care overhaul. He declined to say how he would vote on the package of tax cuts, payroll tax cuts and extended unemployment insurance being debated in Washington, saying he hasn’t yet read the bill.

The former pilot and military veteran also said he is unhappy Oberstar’s staff has shredded unresolved constituent cases that could have been passed on to him with the constituents’ consent. Oberstar’s spokesman has said the shredding is for privacy reasons.

“That’s really in my craw,” Cravaack said.

Oberstar, meanwhile, was set to be honored on the House floor Tuesday, in a tribute led by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (8)
  1. Tom D says:

    Some advice, Chip. Do a good job and you will stand a much better chance of getting re-elected. In other words, represent the people and not the party. And feel free to pass this advice to the other 434 members of the House and 100 in the Senate.

  2. Kyle says:

    Glad to see where his priorities are. How about getting to work Chippy?

  3. mark from mntaxwaste.com says:

    Watch where you spend our money ( taxes), because we will be watching you. Don’t ignore us like Oberstar, we are not children and will not be treated like children. Our voice is our votes! mark@mntaxwaste.com

  4. Strom says:

    Dude has never voted ounce in the house an he’s worried about re-election? This was the guy ragging on some other dude who was in the house for 28 years? Do your job first.

    1. Peggy says:

      I totally agree Strom, he’s already worried about re-election and hasn’t done anything. I’m counting on you new Right to take care of us. You know everything is going to be so good. Come on, you won’t be able to do as much as you want to. We need a more centrist Congress, State Legislature. Neither extreme is going to get the job done.

  5. Bob says:

    Just another typical politician. He hasn’t been seated in the new house and cast his first vote, and yet he is all ready concerned about getting re-elected in 2012. This man has his priorities wrong.

  6. B says:

    He is a republican he does not care about the range if anything he is going to slow down the process of getting the mines open without Oberstar the Iron Range is screwed

  7. Kevin says:

    Strom and Bob, do you know what qeustionsed were asked during this interview? Maybe a reproter asked him about his chances for the 2012 run. Just because the media labled the article as they did doesent mean he came out and talked just about 2012.

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