Election Profile: Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District (2008)
Smart Politics is running a series of election profiles of all the Upper Midwestern U.S. Senate and U.S. House races leading up to the November 4th elections. The series will culminate with Smart Politics’ official projections. The nineteenth profile in the series is Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District race.
Republican: Erik Paulsen
DFL: Ashwin Madia
Independence: David Dillon
Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District comprises the western suburbs of Hennepin County and a small part of southern Anoka County.
The 3rd Congressional District race to fill the open seat left by 9-term retiring Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad is one of the most competitive and highly watched in the country. Ramstad entered Congress by winning the open seat left by 10-term Republican Bill Frenzel in 1990, beating DFL nominee Lou Demars by more than a 2:1 margin (34.0 points). Ramstad thoroughly dominated his DFL opponents in the ensuing eight elections, winning by an average margin of 38.4 points. The DFL closed to within 30 points just twice – in 2004 (29.3 points, Deborah Watts) and 2006 (29.9 points, Wendy Wilde).
Republican Erik Paulsen has served in the state legislature since 1994, and is the former House Majority Leader. Paulsen is running on a platform of fiscal conservatism, including making the Bush tax cuts permanent, though he will not take a ‘no new tax’ pledge. Paulsen did not support the stimulus check passed by Congress last spring nor the one being proposed this fall. Paulsen is also campaigning that the U.S. should achieve energy independence as well as maintain a strong national defense. Paulsen does not support a timeline on the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq. Paulsen also supports legislation banning same-sex marriage and opposes federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
DFL-er Ashwin Madia, an Iraq War veteran, is running to ‘responsibly end the Iraq War,’ strengthen the U.S. economy through growing a green economy and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, balance the federal budget, protect the environment, expand access to health care, and improve veterans’ health care and education opportunities. Madia supports same-sex marriage and federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Independence Party endorsed candidate David Dillon, a printing company CEO and inventor, is running on a platform of restoring economic prosperity to the country through fiscal conservatism. Dillon believes both parties spend too much and are beholden to special interests. Dillon has pledged to “never vote for an unbalanced operating budget, except in the case of a congressionally declared emergency and “never vote for an operating budget that does not provide for at least some reduction in the national debt. Dillon also pledges to “never earmark spending and support legislation to end this practice. Dillon promises to resign from office if he violates these pledges. Dillon also supports same-sex marriage and federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District has not voted for a DFL candidate since 1958 – a string of 24 consecutive elections. However, there has been a swing towards the Democrats in the district in recent years. George W. Bush defeated Al Gore by a 4.5-point margin in 2000 (49.8 to 45.3 percent) and John Kerry by a 3-point margin in 2004 (51 to 48 percent). In gubernatorial races, the margin of victory for Republican Tim Pawlenty decreased by 7.1 points in the district from 2002 to 2006. In 2002, the GOP held a 16.4-point victory margin in the Norm Coleman-Walter Mondale U.S. Senate race. In 2006 Amy Klobuchar beat GOP-er Mark Kennedy by 14.5 points–a 30.9-point net loss for the Republicans in the 3rd C.D. At the state legislative level, the 3rd Congressional District is home to 18 state house districts–14 completely comprised in the 3rd. In 2002, 14 of these 18 districts voted for the GOP candidate. In 2006, 9 went to the DFL, 9 to the GOP. Moreover, the GOP lost ground in 17 of these 18 races, losing an average of 21 net points per district. The race is called a true ‘toss up’ by all leading Congressional pundits.
The R string might have come to an end -even if briefly- had it not been for David Dillon splitting the pro-embryonic stem cell research majority (in all likelihood, the streak would have resumed with the 2010 cycle). Having said that, Madia (the then-newcomer) arguably ‘took one for the team,’ as it were, by drawing campaign resources that otherwise would have gone towards defeating his co-partisans in CD-07 and -01.