It looks like the House Democrats’ aviation guru Jim Oberstar is still facing a battle to retain his seat in Congress as the election nears.
A new poll gives Oberstar just a one-point lead over challenger Chip Cravaack in Miinesota’s eighth district. The KSTP-TV/Survey USA poll showed Oberstar with 47 percent and Cravaack with 46 percent. The margin of error was 3.9 percent. The Duluth News Tribune has a good story on this race.
It appears that Oberstar hasn’t been able to get any separation from Cravaack in the polls. Usually Oberstar wins this district by a comfortable margin, but this time there is a very real prospect that he might not return to Congress. As I discussed in this blog, the irony is that Cravaack is a former Northwest pilot and ALPA union official.
If Oberstar doesn’t return, this would be a major change in the dynamics of U.S. aviation policy. He is currently chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. In that position, he has been the driving force behind some pretty controversial legislative efforts. For example, he has given the airline industry headaches in the FAA reauthorization process with calls for foreign repair station inspections, airline alliance reviews, and a change in labor rules for some FedEx ground workers. Some of his positions have been opposed by Senate Democrats -- a major reason why the FAA bill has stalled.
Of course, it looks like Oberstar wouldn’t be the committee chairman anyway, with the Republicans appearing likely to retake the House. But the absence of Oberstar could still dramatically change the positions the Democrats take if they are in the minority on the committee. He has been such a force in aviation debates over the years that it would be weird to not hear from him anymore.