When Jim Ramstad (MN-R) retired his congressional seat in the third district, Erik Paulsen (R) campaigned as a Ramstad-clone and won the seat in 2008. He promised to lead in the same bi-partisan way Ramstad had for 18 years. A moderate Republican, Paulsen’s predecessor supported a woman’s right to choose, stem-cell research, gay rights (although not gay marriage) and was a champion of Paul Wellstone’s Mental Health Parity Act.
But Rep. Paulsen is not exactly a moderate legislator. While serving in the MN House of Representatives he received a 100% rating from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (an anti-choice, anti-stem cell research organization) six years in a row – and a 90% rating in 2008 while in Congress. He also supports a constitutional amendment banning the legalization of same-sex couples. But perhaps most telling, Paulsen will be an honorary host at Sarah Palin’s upcoming fundraiser for Rep. Michelle Bachmann, Minnesota’s great embarrassment.
Because Paulsen has failed to live up to the “moderate, bi-partisan” promise of his last campaign, the race for U.S. Rep. in Minnesota’s third is on. DFL candidates Jim Meffert and Maureen Hackett have been campaigning and debating for the endorsement won by newcomer Ashwin Madia in 2008. The debates have been uncontentious, both candidates preferring to highlight their own positions rather than attack each other. The final debate between Meffert and Hackett will be held on March 20, 2010 in the City Council Chambers at Minnetonka City Hall from 10:00 a.m. to noon.
Jim Meffert is currently the full-time chief executive of the Minnesota Optometric Association (MOA) which works with teachers, parents and nurses to ensure that children can see in the classroom and get the optometric health care they need. He has also worked to restore the financial health of the MOA and nurtured strong partnerships. Meffert’s other professional associations include the MN PTA (past president), Creek Valley PTA (past co-president), MN P-20 Education Partnership, Alliance for Student Achievement, Growth and Justice Foundation Smart Investments in Public Education Steering Committee, Health Care Access Cost Containment / Medical Home Working Group, American Optometric Association Image Coordination Committee, and the American Medical Association Headlights Task Force. He is passionate about education, health care and the need to find consensus in order to move forward.
Meffert believes that public education is the great equalizer and that includes early childhood education. He believes in maintaining a superior military force but also that the use of our military forces must be a last defense. He is a champion of available, accessible and affordable health care for everyone. And knowing that Minnesotans are still losing their jobs Meffert says, “[The] long term sustainability of our workforce and economic competitiveness begins by re-thinking how government interacts with the private sector.” He understands that health care reform is a necessary component of economic recovery and that we are killing jobs with the cost of benefits. Read more about Meffert’s positions at jimmerffert.com/issues.
Maureen Hackett is a forensic psychiatrist and chair of the ethics committee for the Minnesota Psychiatric Society who served seven years of active duty with the United States Air Force. She has also been an adjunct associate professor at the University of Minnesota and taught the Psychiatry and Law Clinic at William Mitchell College of Law. Her husband is a small business owner who employs 90 people in Minnetonka.
Hackett says, “The challenges America faces today are numerous and well-documented. Too many Americans who want to work can’t find a job. Too many Americans who want to start a small business of their own can’t take the risk because health care costs are too high. Too many American students who have the natural ability to compete and win in the global economy aren’t being adequately trained by our schools.” She believes in affordable, transportable health care for all and that we must make education a national priority. Learn more about her specific ideas at hackettforcongress.org/the-issues.
The candidates hold fairly similar positions on the issues. What’s going to sway delegates is their style, passion and ability to face off against Paulsen who after hobnobbing with Sarah Palin and, perhaps worse, raising money for Michelle Bachmann, just might have some explaining to do when courting independent votes in Minnesota’s third – the very votes that will probably decide this race.