Minnesota voter guide: Where 3rd District candidates stand on the issues

Rep. Erik Paulsen and DFL congressional candidate Dean Phillips.
Rep. Erik Paulsen and DFL congressional candidate Dean Phillips glance at each other between questions during a debate in Minneapolis on Aug. 21.
Lacey Young | MPR News

One of the nation's most intensely watched congressional races this election season is Minnesota's 3rd District.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen and DFL challenger Dean Phillips are locked in a tight race to represent Minnesota's wealthiest district in the western Minneapolis suburbs.

Paulsen has held the seat since 2008. But Phillips, a new politician and heir to the Phillips Distilling fortune, has a slight advantage in most major polls.

Here's where the two stand on some major issues for the midterms:

On President Trump

Phillips: He has said Congress should formally censure the president, saying Trump's behavior threatens "our shared values, international alliances, and national security — and cannot continue."

Paulsen: His voting record is in line with Trump's position almost 98 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. But Paulsen has distanced himself from the president at times. "Do I think the president is a good role model for our children? No. I think some of the policies that are in place now are actually helping the country, there's no doubt about that," Paulsen said at a town hall in May, adding he didn't vote for Trump.

Gun control views

Phillips: Phillips supports universal background checks and closing loopholes allowing people to purchase weapons at gun shows without passing a background check. He also wants an assault weapons ban reinstated and for the federal government to fund gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control. He also wants laws to bar domestic abusers, suspected terrorists and people convicted of violent crimes from owning guns.

Paulsen: Paulsen has accepted money from the National Rifle Association, or NRA, but said he doesn't always agree with the lobbying group. He has supported banning bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic guns to fire more rapidly, and supported so-called red flag laws allowing officials to take guns from people who are deemed unstable.

Health care policy

Phillips: He supports keeping, but modifying, the Affordable Care Act. Phillips also advocates for the expansion of Medicare as a public option for all citizens. He has been critical of prescription drug prices and says the federal government should crack down on "predatory pricing" by drug companies.

Paulsen: Paulsen opposes the Affordable Care Act and wants to repeal and replace it. He wants to allow people to buy health insurance across state lines as a means of increasing competition. He also wants to expand health savings accounts, or HSAs.

K-12 education priorities

Phillips: He wants to expand early childhood learning opportunities and programs to get people from underrepresented backgrounds into the teaching field. Phillips also says federal education mandates like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act need more funding to ease the financial burden on school districts.

Paulsen: He has been a strong supporter of charter schools, which receive public funding and operate privately. Paulsen wants to expand the availability of charter schools, arguing they give students a choice other than their area public school.

Higher education priorities

Phillips: He supports federal funding for alternative education models to the four-year college, such as apprenticeships or skills-based training. He also advocates for expanding federal student aid programs, allowing students to refinance their loans at lower rates and "loan-forgiveness programs for those entering high-impact but low-paying fields."

Paulsen: Like his opponent, Paulsen wants to encourage community and technical colleges and apprenticeships. In Congress, Paulsen has pushed for income-share agreements where students pay back small parts of their education loans based on their income. "[The] freedom and flexibility that ISAs provide students allows them to pursue careers that put their degrees in to practice," he said in a statement in 2017.

On immigration

Phillips: Phillips wants to create pathways to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. He wants technology-focused border security and extended DACA protections.

Paulsen: He has expressed support for a merit-based immigration system over the current lottery. He also supports more funding for border security, but not the wall on the Mexican border President Trump wants. Overall, he wants to crack down on people living in the U.S. without proper documentation but wants the DREAMers to be able to stay.

Views on abortion law

Phillips: He calls himself pro-choice and says he "will work to ensure that women have access to comprehensive, high-quality and affordable care — including reproductive care — throughout their lives."

Paulsen: In Congress, Paulsen has voted to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, repeal a rule requiring state and local governments to give federal money to health centers offering abortion, and ban the use of federal funding for abortion.

On taxes

Phillips: He opposes the new Republican tax law, saying it favors the wealthy and adds to the national debt. Phillips has said that helping the middle class as the most effective way to build the economy. He wants to reduce the corporate tax rate while also closing any loopholes allowing corporations to avoid paying taxes.

Paulsen: He supported Trump's tax plan and said corporate tax cuts will spur investment in business and help the economy. In general, he wants a simpler tax code that's more competitive for businesses.

On climate change

Phillips: He supports extending the 30 percent federal tax credit for renewable energy, adopting a carbon fee and dividend plan for reducing emissions, and adopting stricter efficiency standards.

Paulsen: Once a climate change denier who said he "wasn't smart enough" to know whether it was happening, Paulsen has since joined the Climate Solutions Caucus.

Recreational marijuana positions

Philips: He wants cannabis to be taken off of the federal list of Schedule I drugs and says any legalization decisions should be left to the states.

Paulsen: He does not support recreational marijuana legalization, but supports its medicinal use.