The challenger in the race for the 3rd District House seat took a rare debate opportunity today to try to gain ground against his well-positioned incumbent opponent.
The lunch hour event at a local chamber of commerce gathering at the Interlachen Country Club in Edina was generally polite and predictable when incumbent Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen appeared with DFL challenger Brian Barnes.
Paulsen, who is seeking a third term, described himself as strong supporter of small business and an advocate for Minnesota's medical device industry. He also said he is willing to work across the aisle to get results.
"You've got to work not only "bipartisanly" but you've got to work bicamerally to get things done," Paulsen said. "And I think a lot of my colleagues, they lose track of that and they stick in a rigid philosophy for instance.
"You can make progress on a lot of these significant challenges if you're willing to work across the aisle, not compromise your principles, but understand that you've got to in the end get things done. I've got a great record of showing you can actually do that."
Barnes took issue with Paulsen's claims. The first-time candidate said Paulsen overstates his bipartisan approach.
"He has never crossed over the aisle once and departed with his own party to sign onto a bill from the other side," Barnes said. "Now to me, I think we need people in congress who will take a country-over-party approach, be willing to depart from their own party if need be and do what's right for the people of their district.
Barnes said he would be willing to depart from his party on energy issues, and that he supports nuclear power as part of a broader approach. Barnes said he would support a rollback of tax cuts for top earners, but only if that money would be dedicated to budget balancing and debt reduction.
Paulsen said this is no time to raise taxes, and that he wants to lower tax rates and eliminate many existing deductions.
Both candidates said the mortgage interest deduction should be on the table for possible elimination.