As Rep. Craig Goes, So Goes the Nation?

11/1/19

Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-MN) is someone to keep an eye on, not only because she was CHRO for St. Jude Medical and an HR Policy Association member, but also because her reelection race could be a bellwether for moderate Democrats.   


Rep. Craig and her staff have been great to work with.  She is pragmatic on health care—a defender of the ACA, she doesn’t support Medicare for All, but also doesn’t rule out a public option.  And with respect to privacy, she, more than most, understands that data held in the employment context should not be treated like consumer data.   

She is one of 31 Democrats representing districts President Trump won in 2016.  She also is one of the 14 Democratic freshmen in Trump districts, having flipped a Republican-held seat in 2018.   

Thus, she has a more power to negotiate with the House leadership than others in her caucus.  Speaker Pelosi (R-CA) can’t pass legislation without Craig and her moderate allies in the Trump districts.  While the more liberal and vocal freshmen women known as “the Squad” get a lot of ink, Angie Craig and about a dozen other moderates in Trump districts can stop legislation. (With the current vacancies, the Democrats hold 233 seats and need 218 to carry the day.) 

Minnesota’s second district is as purple as it gets.  President Obama and Mitt Romney all but tied in 2012.  In 2016, President Trump won the district by 1%, and at the same time Rep. Craig lost her first run at Congress.  Two years later, she beat a former talk show host by nearly 6%.   

Which way will the voters south of the Twin Cities go in 13 months?  Craig is already touting her bipartisan credentials.  It’s hard to find a press release or announcement on her website that doesn’t champion her work across the aisle.  And indeed, about 80% of the bills she supports are sponsored by members of both parties.   

However, on two issues fraught with peril for the moderates, Craig is standing with her party. 

First, she is an cosponsor of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (PRO Act; H.R. 2474).  The PRO Act is a laundry list of union favorites including card check, joint employer, the persuader rule, and eliminating right to work and secondary boycott provisions.? While other vulnerable members in swing districts are staying neutral on the partisan bill, Craig was among the first members to sign on to the legislation.  

Then there’s impeachment.  Local newspapers reported that her constituents attending town hall meetings asked her about impeachment (and many other questions ranging from health care and trade), and she said she “want[s] to keep an open mind as we go through the inquiry.”  

On Thursday, she voted in favor of the House resolution that outlines how the impeachment process will move forward and whom the impeachment committees can compel to testify.  Only two Democrats opposed the resolution. 

Perhaps constituents near the Twin Cities aren’t as concerned about impeachment as journalists inside the Beltway.  Maybe the solidified Trump support and hardened opposition will remain and this and other potential impeachment votes will be a wash politically.  Clearly, Rep. Craig hopes her commitment to working across the aisle and her work on kitchen table issues will resonate more with voters.  However, the GOP already has committed $300,000 for advertising in Minneapolis to unseat her.   

Members in swing district must strike a fine balance.  On the most controversial issues of the day, I believe, the moderates are better off voting for what they believe, explaining it well, and then let the chips fall where they may.  Trying to thread the needles or have it both ways will displease both sides.    

It’s great to have someone in Congress who understands the challenges of a CHRO.  Rep. Craig is one to watch for many reasons:  she’s “one of us”—and her decisions and her reelection could tell us a lot about the direction of the Congress and the country.