MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Republican congressman Erik Paulsen is holding three town hall meetings Wednesday, following criticism for not holding in-person meetings before now.
Paulsen, a Republican, represents Minnesotas 3rd Congressional District, which includes Twin Cities suburbs like Edina, Minnetonka, Maple Grove and Brooklyn Park. It is a district that went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Paulsen was repeatedly questioned about his voting record, a record that is more conservative than many of the people in his district. WCCO’s Esme Murphy reports Paulsen was laughed at as he defended President Donald Trump’s tax bill.
The first town hall was at Hamel Community Center Wednesday morning. His second was scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Chanhassen American Legion. And at 7 p.m., he’ll hold his final one of the day at the Brooklyn Park Community Center.
Paulsen has previously held several telephone town hall meetings.
The first town hall meeting, at Hamal, was packed; it was a small venue where participants had to get tickets beforehand that were checked at the door.
It was confrontational in a “Minnesota Nice” way. Those attending thanked Paulsen for holding the meeting.
“Congressman, I recognized you have done a lot of good work,” Orono resident Melissa Fogelberg said. “I voted for you in the past, but in the past few years I feel you have gone significantly off the rails.”
Fogelberg and others questioned Paulsen about his record, including his support for the Presidents tax plan.
“I never believed it would only take two or three months to see such a positive outcome in terms of growth in the economy,” Paulsen said.
Some in the crowd started to wave red cards at that point, the red being a signal of their opposition to Paulsen’s view. (They had green cards to indicate when they supported his position.)
A handful of protestors objected to the format of the event, which was only just announced over the weekend. One person WCCO spoke to said his request for tickets was not granted.
Paulsen faces first-time DFL candidate Dean Phillips, a businessman and philanthropist. Paulsen currently has $2 million in cash in his campaign war chest, compared to Phillips’ $600,000.
On Wednesday, Phillips criticized Paulsen for accepting PAC contributions. Paulsen defended the contributions, as well as his record of meeting with constituents.
“I would say the best comments I get are from my office hours, because I am probably one of the only members of Congress that meets with anybody,” Paulsen responded.
The Cook Political Report, a national tracking group, ranks the race between Paulsen and Phillips as a tossup, but political insiders point to Paulsen’s nearly 15-point victory in 2016 over a popular DFL state senator as evidence he is a formidable campaigner.