Political Leaders React to Oberstar's Death

Posted at: 05/03/2014 12:40 PM
Updated at: 05/03/2014 2:17 PM

Political leaders issued the following statements in reaction to the death of former Rep. Jim Oberstar at the age of 79.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness:

"Over the past fifty years, no public official has done more for our region than Jim Oberstar.  He was this amazing combination of characteristics.   He was likely the most brilliant mind in Congress, his memory and understanding of complex policy was legendary.   He was also part Iron Range street fighter, he always carried that chip on his shoulder as the son of an immigrant mine laborer.   But the most amazing thing about Jim is that he was one of the most kind-hearted and warm people I’ve ever met.   He loved people and people loved Jim.

"Aside from my family, Jim was the most influential person in my life.   He was the perfect mentor because he loved to teach and he took such a passionate and personal interest in the lives and careers of those close to him.  In our long car rides across the district, I would pepper him with questions about congressional history, various leaders in Congress, and insight on the day’s news and policy debates.   Jim would never disappoint.   Even with an audience of just one lowly staffer in the car, Jim would speak passionately, his mind constantly firing on all cylinders.

"I’m heartbroken.   My prayers are with Jean and Jim’s family.   This is such a loss for us all and especially those who love this incredible person."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

"Jim Oberstar was a mentor and a friend and a man of true purpose and grit. His purpose? To make life better for the people of northern Minnesota and our world. His method? Knowing all the facts and never giving up just like the people he represented.

"His life journey took him from the hard scrabble mines of northern Minnesota to the chairmanship of one of the most powerful committees in Congress.  He traveled the country and the world helping people, sharing knowledge and always speaking his mind, sometimes in French.
"Every miner should remember his work to keep the mines open and make them safer.  Every American who bikes the Minnesota bike trails, hikes the Lake Superior trail, and drives our national highways and bridges should remember Jim today.  He was a treasure trove of facts and figures for every member of Congress.
"To the end he loved Jean and his family, his Slovenian heritage, his long bike rides, and anything and everything about transportation policy.  We will miss him dearly."

Sen. Al Franken:

"Minnesota and our nation lost a true giant last night. Jim Oberstar served the Eighth District virtually his entire adult life, but his work went well beyond his Congressional District, and the people of Minnesota and the entire country are better off for his service.

"By the time Jim rose to Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, he knew more about transportation than anyone in this country. The first time I saw Jim in action as Chairman, he was presiding over a hearing on high speed rail with witnesses from Japan and France, and several other countries, all of which -- to our shame -- are far ahead of us in high speed rail.

"When it came time for the Chairman to ask his questions, I learned that Jim had piloted every one of these high speed trains, and Jim questioned the French witness in his own language in startlingly fluent French. It was a tour de force. I think that’s French.

"If Jim were asked to write this himself, he'd somehow segue to the history of infrastructure in this country, from the Erie Canal to rural broadband, then circle back to the Roman aqueducts and the use of slaves to build them and then move into a history of the labor movement, of which he was a fierce champion.

"Franni and I will miss Jim. We know all of you will as well. And we all are better people for having known him. And the Eighth District is a much, much better place for his service."

Rep. Rick Nolan via Twitter:

"Congressman Jim Oberstar was a giant of a man who devoted himself to serving others. This is a terribly sad day for all of us."

Gov. Mark Dayton:

"Congressman Oberstar was a true champion for the people of the 8th District, and for our entire state. He worked tirelessly to bring jobs, economic growth, and a better quality of life to his constituents. I extend my deepest condolences to his wife Jean, and his family."

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon:

“Congressman Oberstar was a tremendous servant and advocate for Northeastern Minnesota, and for Minnesotans statewide. He was committed to safe transportation, public access to Minnesota’s beautiful parks and trails, and to bringing jobs to the people of Minnesota’s 8th district. My thoughts today are with Congressman Oberstar’s wife Jean, his children, and his grandchildren.”

DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen:

“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Congressman Jim Oberstar, a true leader and public servant for the people of Minnesota.

Congressman Oberstar brought passion to public service and defined what it means to leave things better off for the next generation – especially our transportation system. He loved his work, his state and the people he represented and Minnesotans will miss him greatly.”

DFL Chairman Ken Martin:
"The Minnesota DFL family is saddened to hear of the loss of former Congressman Jim Oberstar.
"A long-time public servant, Congressman Oberstar brought Minnesota’s Iron Range values of honesty, loyalty and hard work to Washington D.C. for residents of the 8th Congressional District. Congressman Oberstar was one of the leading experts on transportation and aviation issues in the country. He held many leadership positions dealing with these issues and was internationally recognized for his expertise.
"Personally I was honored to have known Congressman Oberstar for many years and to work with him closely building our Party and electing Democrats to help the state of Minnesota. Minnesota lost a true legend and our thoughts are with his family at his time."