Rod Grams, the 8th Congressional District Republican candidate, pulled in a Bush Cabinet member and former U.S. Senate colleague Friday to help him in his race to unseat Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne campaigned for Grams and appeared at a fund-raiser for Grams at Iven's on the Bay, just north of Brainerd.
Kempthorne said Grams would be an effective voice for Minnesota because of his pragmatism and values.
"Minnesota would be well served," said the man who is in charge of the nation's 390 national park sites.
Sworn in as the 49th secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior in May, Kempthorne previously served nearly two terms as governor of Idaho. Before his stint as governor, he served in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 1999. He began his political career as mayor of Boise, Idaho.
Kempthorne said he hopes to make progress on a number of issues during his time in office, including improving the environment for fish and wildlife and fighting the spread of methamphetamines among the 48,000 children who are schooled on Indian reservations.
Grams spoke of the need for balance between the need to encourage jobs and protection of the environment, noting that recreation is a big part of Minnesota and its economy.
"Who's going to live in northern Minnesota if there's no work here?" he asked.
He promised to work to make northern Minnesota more job-friendly and blamed his opponent for the steady loss of jobs in the past 30 years. The criticism of Oberstar was justified, he said, because of the huge federal government presence in the 8th District. Economic considerations must be part of the equation when environmental decisions are made, he said.
"It can't just be a playground for the rich and elite on weekends," Grams said.
While the government can't create jobs, it can create an environment that's conducive to jobs, Grams said.
Grams was a late entry into the 8th District race. He won the GOP endorsement in May in Breezy Point. He served one term in Congress before being elected to the Senate. Before his political career, he was best known as a television anchor for KMSP in the Twin Cities. His broadcasting career began in Brainerd in 1968, when he worked for former Brainerd Mayor Ed "Tom" O'Brien at KLIZ radio.
Grams lives in Crown, in the southeastern corner of the district, in Isanti County. Before the campaign, he split his time between a Washington D.C. lobbying firm and the three radio stations he owns in Little Falls. (KLTF, WYRQ and KFML).
MIKE O'ROURKE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5860.
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