MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In a race that’s already among the most hotly contested in the country, a new television ad from Democrat Rick Nolan accuses Republican Congressman Chip Cravaack of a smear campaign — and more.

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“The middle class has been hit the hardest in this economy,” says Nolan in the ad while driving a pickup truck. “My opponent’s response has been a smear campaign. That’s just not the Minnesota way. But maybe he doesn’t know that because he’s not from here, and he doesn’t live here anymore.”

The problem?

The allegation is false.

Cravaack does live in Minnesota, and the Congressman provided his property tax statements to WCCO to prove it.

But it’s more complicated than that.

Cravaack’s family lives in another state, and Democrats want voters to know that.

“Chip Cravaack? He’s a pretender,” say Minnesotans in a new television ad from the state DFL Party. “He doesn’t know how we live. He doesn’t know where we’re coming from. He doesn’t even live in Minnesota anymore”.

The ad repeats the distortion.

But it’s not the whole story.

After Cravaack was elected to Congress in 2010, his wife accepted a job in New Hampshire the next year and moved there with their three children.

But the couple kept their Minnesota home, which Cravaack claims as his residence.

The irony: Cravaack won the election, in part, by claiming Democratic Congressman Jim Oberstar didn’t live here.

“Jim Oberstar doesn’t even live in our district,” said then-candidate Cravaack during a taped interview with the Minnesota Libertarian party, an allegation Oberstar said was false.

Said Cravaack of Oberstar: “He lives in a $1.1 million Potomac home in Maryland. He’s never here. I live here. This is my home. This is where my kids go to school. And if I’m doing a bad job, I know my neighbors down the street are going to come knocking on my door and telling me I am doing a bad job.”

Here’s what you need to know.

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It’s illegal for members of Congress to live outside the state they represent.

Cravaack says he spends weekdays in Washington, Saturdays at his home in Minnesota, and Sundays with his family in the New Hampshire.

Based on records provided to the Duluth News Tribune by Cravaack’s Congressional Office, the newspaper reported Cravaack spent 164 days in Minnesota in 2011, and 139 “voting days” in Washington.

The paper also reports that Cravaack spent 11 days in New Hampshire, and that his family spends time with him here in Minnesota.

The issue of Cravaack’s residency signals a change in tone for Nolan, who once said he would not make it part of the campaign.

“I don’t intend to push him on that,” Nolan told WCCO-TV recently.

“I think families should be left out of politics. But I do think being an integral part of the district makes you better able to represent a district.”

Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check:


Rick Nolan Ad

2010 Cravaack Accuses Oberstar of Living Outside District
Link 1 | Link 2 | Link 3

Cravaack Victory Speech

Cravaack Family Moves to New Hampshire

Nolan Says He Won’t Make Residency an Issue

Residency Requirements for Members of Congress

Nolan for Congress

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Cravaack for Congress