The three major-party candidates running for Congress in Minnesota's 3rd District faced off Tuesday during one of the few debates they've agreed to.
Incumbent Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen is running for a second term in the district that includes the western suburbs of Hennepin County and a small part of southern Anoka County. His DFL challenger is Jim Meffert, a former Minnesota Parent-Teacher Association president. Jon Oleson, a small business owner, is the Independence Party candidate.
During their appearance on MPR's Midday, Paulsen said his priority for another term is to help improve the economy. To that end, Paulsen said he favors an extension of upper-income tax cuts passed under President Bush.
"The upper bracket tax cuts affect 50 percent of all small business income, affect 25 percent of all small business jobs," Paulsen said. "And that is where we want the engine of this economy to be from."
Paulsen said he also wants to work to repeal the new federal health care law, but Meffert disagreed with that approach. Meffert said the law isn't perfect, but the country can't afford to go backwards on health care.
"People are making less and paying more in health care costs," Meffert said. "That's what needs to get fixed, and we need to get serious about moving forward with it."
Meffert frequently criticized Paulsen for running negative TV ads against him.
Oleson, the IP candidate, said he offers an independent viewpoint that could help end the partisan bickering that dominates Washington. Politicians need to work together as a team, instead of acting on behalf of political parties and special interest groups, Oleson said.
"Until we can do that, we're not going to be able to resolve these kind of problems," he said. "We simply have to end up working together, and that's the kind of person I would be in Congress."
Oleson, Meffert and Paulsen are scheduled to debate again Wednesday during an Edina Chamber of Commerce event.