MN-03 DFL candidate forum

A discussion with the two Minnesota Democrats vying for the DFL nomination and the chance to unseat Republican incumbent Erik Paulsen

  • Hello everyone, thanks for joining us. Welcome to the MPR News online forum featuring the DFL candidates running in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District. I edit Minnesota Today. My co-host, politics reporter Catharine Richert writes our political fact check blog PoliGraph.
  • What to expect today:
    The forum will last for 90 minutes. We’ve gathered questions from the public this week through our Public Insight Network and via social media. Audience questions asked today will be added to our moderated queue. Each candidate has a chat account that will post without moderation from MPR. All posts will be attributed to the candidate.
  • Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District encompasses the western suburbs of Minneapolis. This seat is currently held by Rep. Erik Paulsen (GOP). Paulsen was first elected in 2008. He beat his DFL opponent 48-41%. In that same election President Barack Obama won 52% of the vote to Sen. John McCain’s 46%. Paulsen handily defeated his DFL opponent in 2010 59-37%.
  • The 3rd district is home to the most affluent suburbs in the state. In 2010 Wayzata was the source of the greatest amount of campaign contributions. The district is also home to blue collar communities like Brooklyn Park, where Jessie Ventura served as mayor.
  • Today we will hear from two DFL candidates, Brian Barnes and Sharon Sund.
  • Candidates, please post your opening statements.
  • Minnesotans have told me that they see the American Dream vanishing. They have come to believe that their opportunities and their children’s are limited and that no one is looking out for them. In my years of activism, I have learned that national initiatives can promote fairness and a better future for us all. I know that it will take countrywide efforts to establish fairness for all and to restore the American Dream.

    I have volunteered, through national and local organizations, to

    · Enact health care reform

    · Protect Social Security and Medicare

    · Promote investment in green energy and industries

    · Work for economic fairness for workers in the middle class
    As the Congresswoman for the third district, I will focus federal attention on:

    · Investing in infrastructure to create jobs now; providing tax incentives for investments in renewable technology and for job repatriation

    · Protecting Social Security, Medicare, and women’s reproductive rights


    · Reducing achievement gaps in our schools and increasing achievement in science and technology

    · Campaign finance reform
    President Obama and Senator Klobuchar both won in the third district and so will we!
  • Hello. I’m Brian Barnes, and I’m running for Congress to represent the third district. My background is humble. My mom is a schoolteacher and my dad is a technician.

    But for five straight generations my family has served this country in the military. Further my great grandfather helped build the railroad infrastructure that once made us strong, and I will not stand idly by while our bridges crumble, our freedoms fade and Eric Paulsen and his party sells out the country our families helped build.

    I’ve sworn three oaths in my lifetime, as an eagle scout, as a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Reserve, and to my wife who I met in grad school. Unlike Eric Paulsen, I will never swear an oath to Grover Norquist.
  • First question: What in your background qualifies you to represent Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District in Washington? Please use specific examples.
  • I would like too know what our candidates have done for the 3rd congressional district, that they deserve our support.
  • I believe my background is one that will appeal to the voters in this district. My business background is proof I know how to compete in a global economy and my military and Merchant Marine service have allowed me to both travel the world, and know a thing or two about the armed services.
  • Thanks for your answer, Brian. Could you give the audience more specifics on your business background?
  • As a 20 year resident and parent in the district, who's lived in Bloomington, Champlin, and now Plymouth, I've volunteered in the children's schools and church, and a parent advocate for children with special needs. I am a scientist and small business owner who can relate to voters across the spectrum in the third district. Finally I've led team to Paulsen's office to fight for affordable health care, energy, and an economy that works for all of us.
  • Thanks for your answer, Sharon. Can you tell the audience a bit more about your small business background?
  • I run the marine division at Cummins Onan, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of generators that are all produced right here in the state. Over 80% are sold outside the U.S. So when people say the American manufacturing model doesn't work, they're wrong.
  • I own and manage rental property across the metro and in the district. I also have corporate background in research and development.
  • Question #2: David Shuler from Bloomington writes, “Paulsen is a good guy, understands how business and the economy works, and supports efforts to grow the economy.” Do you support Paulsen’s approach to economic issues? If not what is he doing wrong?
  • No, I do not support his approach to economic issues. What he is doing wrong is not putting the people first in our district. For example, he supports continued tax breaks for big oil, he voted against investment in green energy jobs and voted against investment in infrastructure.
  • We support Paulsen's efforts in helping the medical device industry. However, Erik Paulsen is one of the people that played politics with our nation's credit rating, which hurt our economy and all businesses. Also, Paulsen consistently votes against more affordable higher education, which is harmful to our long-term growth.
  • Question 3: Paul Harder from Plymouth asks “What would you do to stimulate job growth?” Please be specific in your answer: would you rely on government and state programs? Lower taxes?
  • We need a two step approach. First we need to immediately pass the jobs bill which will put people to work immediately, fixing our broken roads and bridges. Modernizing our schools, preventing teacher layoffs, and giving small businesses access to much needed cash. Secondly, we need to take a long view of the economy, by investing now in jobs for the future. This includes giving incentives to businesses that invest in green energy, green energy jobs, and will repatriate manufacturing jobs. And invest in education for the jobs of the future.
  • First, we need to maintain our roads and bridges. There are over a thousand bridges that are structurally deficient in Minnesota. We can put thousands of people back to work. Second, we need to invest in higher education, which is the R & D engine of our economy. Third, we need to invest in research in our universities in biomedical, advanced manufacturing, and tomorrow's technologies. Finally, we need to support the Obama jobs bill.
  • Question 4: Zee Stone, Brooklyn Park writes, “My house has gone from an appraised $275,000 to $90,000 in five years. That was my retirement. Gone. 1/4 of the houses in Brooklyn Park are in foreclosure.” What would you do to tackle the foreclosure crisis?
  • Zee, I am so sorry that you have lost so much. What I would do to help people like you, is first require that banks change their policies and begin discussing financial mortgage refinancing before people are in arrears on mortgage payments. I would require banks to enter mediation or arbitration before foreclosing on a home. Also, I would expand the Home Affordable Finance Program so that any one struggling with unemployment, underemployment, or rapidly declining home values can seek immediate assistance.
  • Zee, I am so sorry to hear this. I am hearing stories like this all over the district and it is something we must address immediately. First, we need to stabilize the housing market. We need to support the President's new housing initiative that would allow homeowners like you to refinance at current low rates, even if you are upside down with your mortgage. Second, we need to reform the bankruptcy laws. Third, we need to force companies like AIG, Fannie and Freddie that have received billions of dollars in bailout money to act responsibly and stabilize the housing market.
  • Question 5: Erik Paulsen has won his last two elections handily. What are your strategies for beating an incumbent?
  • We need to raise enough money to run a competitive race. This means informing the voters in the district that Rep. Paulsen is an extremist. He is Michele Bachmann in Jim Ramstad clothing. The residents in CD3 deserve someone that is open, honest, and represents them, not special interests.
  • Voters in the Third District need to know who the real Erik Paulsen is. In Paulsen's America, seniors can't depend on Medicare or Social Security. Economic interests of large corporations are looked after while the rest of us are left to defend for ourselves. Education and infrastructure are no longer priorities. The Third District is a moderate swing district where Obama won by 7 points. As a 20 year resident, parent, scientist, business owner, and community activist I can relate to the people of this district and they can relate to me.
  • Question 6: Michael Davis from Brooklyn Center writes, “Currently I am voting for Erik Paulsen, mainly because I am very centrist in my political views, and for the most part, Paulsen has done an excellent job of representing the center. I also have not heard much of anything from his two rivals, so if I hear good, non-partisan, non-polarising campaigning from one of the DFL candidate, I may change my mind.” What is your pitch to Michael and moderate voters?
  • I would say that Erik Paulsen has voted against fair pay for women when he voted the Lilly Ledbetter act. He voted against Medicare and Social Security when he voted for the Ryan budget. And he consistently votes against our children's education. I will appeal to moderate voters by talking about the issues that matter to every family in every community like education, affordable housing, keeping people in their homes, and the social safety net of Social Security and Medicare.
  • The pitch to moderate voters is the same for all voters. We need to focus on our economy, education, deficit reduction and the things that will make a difference in peoples lives, like the questions that have been posed in this forum. We don't need to be focusing on divisive and discriminatory social policies, like Representative Paulsen has.
  • Question 7: Brian Barnes touched on this issue earlier. Erik Paulsen currently has $1,072,168 cash on hand to spend on this campaign. He’s demonstrated a consistent ability to raise a lot of money. Reed Carpenter from Bloomington asks, “How do you plan to raise enough money to challenge the incumbent?”
  • We raised over $50,000 our first quarter, which is on par with the candidates in CD8 and is the most raised by a first-time candidate challenging an incumbent in this district. Raising money is a matter of momentum, and it comes from people like you who care about our country's future and our children's future.
  • There's no denying that Erik Paulsen receives tons of money from special interest groups. All my money so far has come from individuals, almost all of whom live in the state. We are fortunate to live in MN where getting to know voters is as important as raising money early in the race. The DCCC has targeted this as a race to watch, and we will raise the money.
  • Question 8: Nancy Johnson from Edina writes, “I believe that most of our problems could be easily solved if politicians did not owe so many favors by the time they get elected. Would you support publicly funded elections?”
  • Nancy, that is great point. Yes!
  • Question 9: Will you abide by the DFL endorsement process? If you don’t get the DFL endorsement will you drop out of the race and support your opponent?
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