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Congress is in turmoil,  state government is deadlocked and yet the main issue emerging in the 8th congressional district race is that of residency and roots.

Relationships often matter more than issues in the 8th district. This is particularly true on Minnesota's  Iron Range, where the first two questions one is asked are "who are you" (what is your ethnicity) and "where are you from" (are you one of us).

It should be of no surprise, then, that those are the first questions candidates for the 8th district congressional seat are being asked.

On the Iron Range, we call outsiders 'packsackers'. This term comes from the early days of mining when many came from outside the area (carrying their possessions in packsacks) to seek temporary work in the mines. Today it is used to describe those who are not from the Range, even those who have lived here for 20 years or more.

It is the perfect term for both Rep. Chip Cravaack and DFLer Tarryl Clark, who, unlike Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson and former Congressman Rick Nolan, are not one of us.

Cravaack, who came to Minnesota from West Virginia via Ohio, is perhaps the worst offender. He gave a national television interview "from his district" while in Minneapolis,  moved his campaign committee from North Branch to St. Paul, transferred his account from a bank in Chisago City to one in Minneapolis, hired a New Jersey law firm to serve as legal counsel, and is moving his family to New Hampshire because his wife has a full-time job in Massachusetts. His visits in the district seem to consist more of pushing the agenda for the Tea Party rather than constituent service. His actions reflect loyalty to himself rather than to the citizens of the 8th whom he is supposed to represent.

But Tarryl Clark, who moved to Minnesota from Virginia via Arizona, is not one of us either.  One certainly cannot question her commitment to Minnesota since she represented the people of St. Cloud (and served them well) in the state senate. But the 6th district is clearly where she belongs. No matter where I am, whether it's North Branch, Duluth or Hibbing, the very first thing I hear people say about Tarryl Clark is "carpetbagger" or "packsacker". Unlike Cravaack, Clark does seem to know where the 8th district is, but her move to Duluth for the sole purpose of running for office has soured people to her candidacy. The fact that she sees it as a non-issue shows how little she understands the Great 8th.

This packsacker status of the two Virginians is particularly noxious when they are competing against our native sons from the Cayuna Range (Nolan) and the Vermilion Range (Anderson).

The first congresswoman from Minnesota, Coya Knudson of the old 9th district, faced a "Coya Come Home" campaign in 1958.  Likewise, "Packsacker Go Home" is clearly the theme of the 8th congressional district race in 2012.

Cross-posted at Minnesota Progressive Project

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