WINDHAM — The Cravaacks did what a lot of families do after a big job promotion came through in Boston.
They bought a house in upscale Windham.
But that real estate purchase is having political ramifications in two states and in Washington, D.C.. That's because Chip Cravaack, a congressman from Minnesota, is spending weekend time with the wife and kids in New Hampshire while running for re-election.
The first-term Republican is under fire from political groups in Minnesota and New Hampshire that are questioning his residency and ability to effectively represent constituents.
Cravaack was elected in 2010, ousting an entrenched Democrat, running on a platform advocating repeal of the health-care reforms passed under President Obama.
His wife, an executive with a pharmaceutical company, later landed a promotion requiring her to work in Boston. The family decided she and their two sons would relocate in the East. Cravaack, meanwhile, keeps a home in Minnesota.
Last summer the congressman and his wife, Traci, bought a house at 18 Sheffield St. in Windham, paying $645,000, assessor Rex Norman said, after reviewing town records.
The four-bedroom home, with two and a half baths and a three-car garage, was built in 2002 and is assessed at $578,100. Norman described it as a "mid-range priced home" for Windham.
Cravaack is keeping a low profile in town.
"I haven't run into him at Shaw's or anywhere," Selectmen's Chairman Bruce Breton said. "I heard months ago that somebody from Minnesota moved to Sheffield Street, but I didn't know it was a congressman."
He admitted he was a little perplexed by the situation.
"I'm just glad he's a taxpayer in Windham," Breton said.
Cravaack hasn't been in for a haircut yet at Windham Barbershop in the Cobbetts Pond plaza.
"I don't think so," barber Tristin Herdt said.
She had not heard about the Minnesota congressman living in Windham.
"I'm sure it will come up," she said. "We're a barbershop."
Neighbor Lynn Goulas has met Traci Cravaack and the children.
"They're a very nice family," Goulas said.
She admits she hasn't seen the congressman doing chores around the house.
"I can't say I've ever seen him, but life is busy," she said.
The Constitution says only that a person must be an inhabitant of the state they represent at the time of their election, but doesn't require residency and the courts have shot down states that have tried to make it so.
Over the years, congressmen and candidates for Congress have faced criticism over living in adjacent districts or keeping a home in the Washington area.
The progressive Granite State Progress group this week kiddingly launched a "Chip for New Hampshire" campaign to call attention to Cravaack's residency issue.
In Minnesota, no Republican is challenging Cravaack, but three Democrats are trying to unseat him.
"This is definitely an issue for him in Minnesota," University of Minnesota associate professor Kathryn Pearson said yesterday. "He has explained to his constituents his wife works in Boston and he has said he still gets back to the Minnesota 8th District as much as he used to."
But it's about 1,400 miles from the Granite State to the North Star State.
There hasn't been enough polling to tell whether it is affecting his re-election chances, but Cravaack was regarded as vulnerable because he is a first-term Republican running in a district Democrats have traditionally won, Pearson said.
Democrats already are running ads against Cravaack. The Cook Political Report, in its analysis of Congressional contests, rates the Minnesota district as a toss-up.
"The people of Minnesota love him," Minnesota Republican Party spokesman Heather Rubash said of Cravaack.
There are differing views on that score.
News reports out of Minnesota earlier this year had supporters saying they respected Cravaack's decision regarding his family.
But detractors, protesting Cravaack's actions in Congress, went so far as to display critical signs, including one that said New Hampshire is not part of his Minnesota district.
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