ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democrat Rick Nolan is shifting gears in Minnesota's most hotly contested congressional race with a new TV ad that questions GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack's ties to the state.
In the ad, Nolan looks into the camera and says, "He's not from here and he doesn't live here anymore." The ad began airing in Duluth and the Twin Cities over the weekend.
It's the first time Nolan, a former congressman, has directly gone after Cravaack for his family's move to New Hampshire, after saying for months that he wouldn't make it an issue. The race is one of the nation's most expensive contests, drawing in more than $5 million from outside groups on top of loads of money the candidates themselves are spending.
Cravaack's wife and sons left Minnesota last year when his wife got a new job. The first-term incumbent bought a house in North Branch, in the southern reaches of northeastern Minnesota's 8th District, and stresses the amount of time he spends in his district. Nolan lives on a farm north of Brainerd, an area where his family ties run deep.
"I don't think that's negative at all," Nolan campaign manager Mike Misterek said Monday in regards to the ad. "I think that's pointing out the difference between the two of them."
Cravaack campaign adviser Ben Golnik called the ad "a 180 reversal" for Nolan, noting several interviews where Nolan insisted he wouldn't make Cravaack's family's move a campaign issue.
Democrats see the seat as a top prospect for a pickup, while Republicans want Cravaack to show staying power after his upset win in a conservative region with a long Democratic tradition. Negative ads are running in the Duluth and the Minneapolis-St. Paul TV markets. The candidates have clashed over Medicare, jobs, mining and other issues.
Nolan's new ad shows him as a homegrown Minnesotan — walking in the woods with a gun and dog, climbing into a pickup, driving along a wooded road. Nolan mentions his work as a trade official for the late Democratic Gov. Rudy Perpich, a revered figure on Minnesota's Iron Range, a longtime Democratic stronghold where Cravaack gained traction two years ago.
The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party is also raising Cravaack's residency with a new ad that shows a miner saying, "He doesn't even live in Minnesota anymore."
Meanwhile, Cravaack picked up key newspaper endorsements from the Duluth News Tribune in the district's largest city and from the Mesabi Daily News in Virginia, on the Iron Range. Golnik said the endorsements show Cravaack is the stronger candidate. Misterek said the endorsements won't make a big difference in a close race.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.