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Cravaack challenger Nolan picking up big endorsements

With the 2012 election still more than a year away, DFL contender Rick Nolan has already garnered a slew of big names on Minnesota’s Iron Range in his attempt to unseat Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack.

Iron Range natives Veda Ponikvar, former state Sen. George Perpich and former state Rep. Joe Begich have all declared their support for Nolan in recent days.

Joe Begich is a former state legislator and current member of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. He’s also the uncle of Alaska U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. Joe Begich announced his support for Nolan on Monday.

“With unemployment across the Range and throughout the Eighth District in double digits, with hardworking middle class families losing jobs and homes and hope, Iron Rangers need a leader and a champion again in Washington, and Rick Nolan’s the one,” Begich said in a statement. ”Rick Nolan was born here and grew up here. He lives here. He’s raised his family here. He hunts and fishes here. Rick understands our hopes and dreams and aspirations on the Range because he holds those same feelings for his family.”

Nolan glowingly accepted the endorsement.

“Joe Begich and his family helped inspire me to enter politics and public service,” Nolan said in a statement. “They set an example for me in terms of what it takes to fight for people and confront the special interests that continue to damage America.”

Nolan also picked up the support of another icon of the Range, Veda Ponikvar.

The Minnesota Historical Society described Ponikvar in its celebration of Minnesota’s 150 years of statehood back in 2007:

Writer, activist, historian and keeper-of-the-culture are only a few of the words which describe Veda Ponikvar and the deep influence she has had on the fabric of the Minnesota Iron Range and the entire state. At 28 she became the youngest and the first female newspaper publisher in the nation. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady”, Veda is an adventurous pioneer newspaperwoman who never forgot her love of country and her deep roots in Chisholm’s Mesabi Iron Range.

Ponvikar said in a statement that Nolan is a fighter for the people of the region.

“He will always fight for the Iron Range and do whatever he can to make it prosper. Rick understands that by strengthening northern Minnesota mining, we strengthen our state and nation’s economic stability,” Ponvikar said. “I urge Iron Rangers to support Rick Nolan for the DFL endorsement to defeat Chip Cravaack in 2012, and be our next truly great, caring, hard working congressman.”

The Minnesota Progressive Project notes that another Ranger has offered his support for Nolan. Former state Sen. George Perpich, brother of Gov. Rudy Perpich, hosted a fundraiser for Nolan in South Minneapolis Thursday.

Nolan has picked up the lion’s share of endorsements on the Range thus far in the 2012 election cycle. Also running are former state Sen. Tarryl Clark who lost a 2010 bid to oust Rep. Michele Bachmann, and Jeff Anderson, a member of the Duluth City Council.

Cravaack won the district in 2010, defeating James Oberstar who had held the seat for decades. The district had been represented by a DFLer for much of the 20th Century.

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