By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Candidates in a campaign that has been contentious on TV met face-to-face for a second debate today.

Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen and Democratic challenger Dean Phillips are vying for Minnesota’s 3rd District. They faced off during a Minnesota Public Radio debate this morning.

For the first 20 minutes of the debate, both candidates used radio time to defend their TV ads. Paulsen lauded an ad that says Phillips didn’t offer health insurance to employees at his coffee shop.

“No. 1 it’s an area where Dean has been a hypocrite,” Paulsen said. “That was fact-checked to be true, so we are pointing that out and making it clear.”

But Phillips countered.

“I’m surprised the congressman would start this debate with that contention, because KARE 11 and WCCO have said that’s false and you know it,” Phillips said.

Phillips was also asked about the Bigfoot ad that accuses Paulsen of not being available to his constituents.

“Time and time again, from thousands of people, it’s the same message,” Phillips said. “They believe it’s the responsibility of a member of Congress to show up to host town hall meetings.”

Paulsen defended himself against the accusations.

“Whether it’s hosting 23 different telephone town hall meetings in the last year and a half, my own in-person meetings,” Paulsen said.

There was plenty of time to spar over other issues such as the tax bill, Medicare and gun control.

Paulsen said he has helped pass some gun laws and he’s pushing for more.

“We came up at the federal level of having gun violence restraining orders,” Paulsen said.

Phillips talked gun control also.

“Congressman Paulsen has taken over $20,000 from the NRA,” Phillips said. “Congress has done almost nothing, almost nothing to make our schools, streets and businesses safer from gun violence.”

Phillips also challenged Rep. Paulsen’s voting record in Congress.

“To say you stand up with your party when you vote 98 percent of the time with Donald Trump and about equal amount with your own party, in a district that is so purple, is a very odd contention to me and, frankly, hypocritical,” Phillips said.

Paulsen countered.

“If you look at what President Trump has signed into law, 70 percent has been bi-partisan,” Paulsen said. “That’s actually the best record of any president in the last 20 years, and of that 70 percent, Amy Klobuchar has voted for 91 percent of those issues.”

In the end, Phillips said he won’t take any PAC or special money, and Paulsen said he’ll continue to reach across party lines.

“I started this campaign out of anxiety after the 2016 election and it has been converted to optimism,” Phillips said.

“In a highly challenging and politically charged environment, I’m one of those members of Congress that has been able to work across the aisle and get things done,” Paulsen said.

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