Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses the wealthy suburbs west of Minneapolis, should be competitive. Political strategists have often rated the district a tossup, but Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen has managed to keep the district in Republican hands following the 2008 retirement of moderate Rep. Jim Ramstad, even winning by double digits in 2010.
As district resident Sharon Sund aims to change that, Paulsen is getting renewed attention from national Democrats, who are launching a new round of ads against him.
"I never thought I'd be a politician," Sund told the Minnesota Independent. "And I said I wouldn't be if anyone asked. I was adamant."
But Paulsen's vote in favor of the GOP budget, orchestrated by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, changed that.
"Erik Paulsen decided that he was going to vote on this Ryan budget, which destroys Medicare as we know it. He was just hellbent on doing whatever the Republicans wanted to do," she said. "They insisted that they best way to do things was to cut taxes and continue to fund corporations. He was going to do this because he believe it was the right thing to do. The only way that we were going to get something different was to get someone different in that position, so I decided I should run."
And it's a district that should be relatively friendly to Democrats. The Cook Political Report has consistently rated the 3rd as "even" between Democratic and Republican voters. President Obama carried the district with 52 percent in 2008 - but that same year Paulsen won 48 percent to DFLer Ashwin Madia's 41 percent. In 2010, a landslide year for Republicans, Paulsen won by double digits with 59 percent to DFLer Jim Meffert's 37 percent.
Since then, Paulsen has kept his head down and avoided controversy, unlike Republicans in neighboring districts. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a persistent target for progressive activists over her frequent gaffes and decidedly right-wing positions, is on the northern boundary with Paulsen's district. To the district's east, DFLer Rep. Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to Congress, a fact that has brought right-wing attacks, and he's quickly risen to become a leader on the left.
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