One of the people who traveled to India with me was Minnesota State Representative Erik Paulsen, a Republican representing District 42B, which is in the southwest metro community of Eden Prairie. We visited several times during the week-long trip, but my best conversation with him occurred on the hour-long flight between New Delhi and Bangalore, where we sat next to each other.
Serving in the State Legislature since 1994, Paulsen is focused on efforts designed to improve Minnesota’s business climate and educational environment. Part of his reason for traveling to India was to scout out partnership opportunities for the numerous high-tech companies in Eden Prairie. He sees the potential Asian partnerships offer Minnesotans and Americans. In the legislature, he authored legislation to make Mandarin Chinese language education available in Minnesota high schools; in the last legislative session, he secured funding for the Minnesota India Center at the University of Minnesota.
Paulsen was the House majority leader for four years, and has a penchant for bipartisanship. He even joked that he got more legislation passed in 2007 being in the minority party than he did when he was in the majority. Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life lists Paulsen as one of the state’s 82 (out of 201) legislators who had a 100 percent pro-life voting record in 2007.
When U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) announced he was retiring at the end of the current term, Paulsen announced his candidacy for the 3rd Congressional seat. I live in the 5th District so I won’t get to vote for him, but I am supporting Paulsen. I like politics and I have always wanted to support someone who actually reflects my thinking. There were as many as nine Republicans expressing interest in the seat, but Paulsen quickly got the others to line up behind his campaign.
Open seat elections are special. With members of congress typically holding onto their seats for years, if not decades, open seats don’t come up that often. The Third District is particularly interesting because Ramstad is a pro-choice Republican, and the western suburbs, which make up the Third District, are gradually turning out more Democrat voters. Many of the national pundits are calling the Minnesota Third a toss-up. The Democrats feel an opportunity here and the speculation is several millions of dollars will be spent on a contentious race. That would be a marked contrast from the past several years in which Ramstad ran essentially unopposed and regularly won easily.
Now there is some talk that Ramstad is not going to resign. Reports in various publications and across the blogosphere have Ramstad holding onto his seat. Apparently Republicans figure 2008 is going to be a tough enough year as it is; if they can convince Ramstad to stay put, that is one less seat they will have to worry about losing.
I think this is a disaster. Ramstad announced he is retiring and he should stand by that announcement. Paulson has already put a lot of work into the campaign and it would really be unfair to his supporters for Ramstad to now say: “just kidding, I’m staying.”
What the Republicans really need is new blood, not the same old thing that Ramstad represents. The party is under-estimating Paulsen. He is clearly a candidate who can win. Keep in mind that the money the Democrats pour into running against him is money they won’t have to pour into other races, such as the Minnesota Sixth District where the incumbent is Michele Bachmann. If Ramstad runs in the Third, the Democrats will have more money to aim at that contest, where they believe they might be able to unseat one of the country’s most conservative representatives.
No matter who runs, Republicans are not going to win back control of Congress in 2008. My point is, Republicans need fresh blood and Paulsen is one of the best examples of that. I am going to continue to support him. I cannot get excited about more of the same, which is what Ramstad represents. He announced he is resigning and he should stand by that announcement.
tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
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