ECM Editorial: Erik Paulsen – our choice for 3rd District Congress

Redistricting brought minor change to Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District. The district now includes all of Coon Rapids. Brooklyn Center and part of Edina was moved out; Chaska and Chanhassen were moved in. Most of western Hennepin County remains in this suburban, predominantly Republican district.

Erik Paulsen of Eden Prairie is finishing his second term serving the 3rd and with some reservations, we endorse Paulsen for re-election.

Paulsen’s opponent, DFLer Brian Barnes, is a quality candidate – intelligent, articulate and knowledgeable on issues facing the 3rd District specifically, and the country in general. The Edina resident adeptly answered every editorial board question, from foreign policy to federal tax issues to the farm bill. He will get strong support from Democrats and Independents who seek a change in direction for the district.

Paulsen displayed extensive knowledge about the current federal financial situation, including the so-called fiscal cliff that lies ahead and details of sequestration – automatic cuts in federal spending that will occur if Congress does nothing to prevent it.

We were disappointed when he pled ignorance about the farm bill currently awaiting action by the U.S. House. While the 3rd District has few farmers, the farm bill is very important to Minnesota’s economy. Also, almost 80 percent of the “farm bill” is funding for SNAP – (formerly the food stamp program) and school lunch programs – both very important to district residents.

Paulsen seemed irritated when we asked about the Affordable Health Care Act, but did say after being pressed, he did not support the individual mandate among other details, but did favor some of the more popular provisions. He said he would not support total repeal of the health care bill, but rather changing the law by future legislation. Paulsen authored legislation to eliminate a tax on medical devices, a provision that could hurt many local companies, including St. Jude’s Medical, Medtronic and Boston Scientific. Paulson’s bill passed the House but is awaiting action in the Senate.

We also noted Paulsen mentioned his “constituents” on many occasions, but almost every reference was to businesses, not to individuals. We certainly agree our business community is important. The 3rd is home to many major corporations — Best Buy, Target, Super Valu, United HealthCare and Cargill to name a few — as well as thousands of small businesses. However, we think the individual district resident deserves at least equal billing.

Overall, we do believe that returning Paulsen to Congress is in the district’s best interest. He has made headway through the maze of Washington politics. With an estimated 100 seats turning over in the House this year, Paulsen will be in a good spot on the seniority list, giving him opportunity for key committee appointments. He is currently a member of the Ways and Means Committee, an influential panel on Capitol Hill.

We urge Paulsen to emulate his predecessor, Jim Ramstad, who was incredibly well-liked by Democrats as well as Republicans for his moderate voice, his commitment to listen to everyone of any political belief, and to forge alliances good for the 3rd, our state and the country.

We also urge Brian Barnes to continue speaking his views and we expect to hear from him again in the future. He brings an intelligent conversation to the table.

It is with those caveats that we endorse Erik Paulsen for re-election to Congress in the 3rd District.

 – This editorial is a product of the ECM Editorial Board.