Cravaack, Nolan tangle on jobs, World Trade Center
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack rekindled the issue of Democratic challenger Rick Nolan's work on the Minnesota World Trade Center more than two decades ago as the candidates clashed over jobs Friday in a nationally watched northeastern Minnesota race.
During a debate taped for KSTP TV's "At Issue," Cravaack brought up the state project that Nolan spearheaded in the 1980s and early 1990s, calling it "a complete failure."
"Gov. Rudy Perpich backed away from it, unfortunately, and didn't even attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony," Cravaack said.
It wasn't the first time Nolan has faced criticism about the Minnesota World Trade Center. One of his Democratic primary rivals ran a TV ad in August accusing him of "a blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars" as head of the corporation that promoted the center.
Nolan headed the World Trade Center Corp. in St. Paul from 1986 to 1993, when the organization flirted with bankruptcy. A 1994 Legislative Auditor's report outlined "severe financial difficulties" and said the project was losing $3,000 to $5,000 a month and couldn't make an equipment payment. It eventually was taken over by the Minnesota Trade Office.
Nolan defended the project, saying he helped raise almost $100 million to build the facility, employing hundreds of construction workers and helping Minnesota companies start exporting at a time when far fewer businesses sold products abroad. He said he volunteered his time for three years before being hired.
"During the Perpich years, 328,000 new jobs were created and that World Trade Center helped contribute an enormous amount of them," he said.
The issue flared in the hard-fought 8th District race as the candidates probed for weakness in the campaign's final weeks. Outside groups have spent nearly $4.5 million on the contest, as the national parties and their allies view the seat as a key to control of the House. Cravaack upset an 18-term Democrat in 2010 in an area historically considered Democratic. Nolan is coming on strong, outraising Cravaack in the most recent fundraising period.
The first-term incumbent made his claims about the World Trade Center after Nolan talked about his experience creating jobs. Cravaack also alluded to Nolan's personal bankruptcy in the 1980s after his export business failed, saying, "He's had his challenges."
Nolan criticized Cravaack for supporting tax cuts, saying businesses need middle-class customers who have money to spend on their products.
"I'm a businessman," Nolan said. "I know how to create jobs. I have created jobs. You create jobs by demand — not voting as the congressman has to give more tax breaks to billionaires."
The debate will air Sunday on KSTP. The candidates also are scheduled to debate Tuesday in Cambridge and Oct. 31 in Virginia.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.