WASHINGTON, D.C. (BRAIN)—Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar, a 36-year veteran of Congress who was one of cycling’s most important advocates in Washington, D.C., lost his reelection campaign in the Republican tidal wave.
Political newcomer Chip Craavak, a Republican, won 48 percent of the vote to Oberstar’s 47 percent. The difference was less than 4,500 votes out of nearly 277,000 cast.
“…[W]hichever way you spin it, bicyclists and the bicycling movement have lost a friend in Congress,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, in a blog posting after Oberstar’s defeat was confirmed Wednesday morning. “I’m not going to lie—I’m depressed.”
Clarke called Oberstar a “true champion of bicyclists’ issues in Congress,” saying that many federal cycling initiatives such as the Safe Routes to School Program, state bicycle coordinators, the requirement that state and federal officials include cyclists in their transportation planning, and the non-motorized pilot projects, started with him.
As the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Oberstar was one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress. But he also made frequent appearances at the National Bike Summit. The 76-year-old is also a cyclist.
The Duluth News Tribune said Oberstar had never failed to win less than 59 percent of the vote in previous elections. His Rust Belt district, anchored in Duluth, includes northeastern Minnesota.
Pollsters before the election had rated Oberstar’s seat as relatively safe, but with Republicans taking 60 seats in the House on Tuesday, many “safe” seats turned out to be anything but.