Rep. Erik Paulsen, who is running to replace the retiring Jim
Ramstad in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District, is a
Republican — but don’t tell anybody.
Throughout his 14-year tenure in the Minnesota Legislature, Paulsen
has been one of the most consistent and avid Republican right voices on
behalf of government-slashing and "family values" assaults on abortion
rights, gay rights and education standards. Yet when Paulsen spoke at
the Republican National Convention in St. Paul early this month, his
campaign billed the site of the appearance as simply the "National Convention." In fact, a glance of Paulsen’s campaign materials would leave a casual observer wondering what party the candidate is affiliated with.
That scrubbing of party identification betrays his position as a
leader in Minnesota’s Republican Party and his conservative legislative
record, a record that appears more conservative than the voters of
Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District.
Paulsen has earned high marks from some of Minnesota’s most extreme
conservative groups. He has earned a lifetime score of 89 percent from
the arch-right Minnesota Taxpayers’ League, reaching a high of 91
percent in 2007. Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a group
dedicated to making abortion illegal in all circumstances, gave Paulsen
his lowest rating ever in 2008: a mere 90 percent. Paulsen had garnered
a perfect 100 percent from 2002 to 2007. The Minnesota Family Council,
a group that opposes equal rights based on sexual orientation, noted
that Paulsen has voted their way on every issue except for gambling
from 2003 to 2005. He scored a 100 percent in 2007 from the group.
Which issues has Paulsen supported to gain such impressive conservative ratings?
On issues of reproductive health, Paulsen has stood firmly with the
religious right in opposing any form of abortion or any sex education
curriculum that doesn’t include abstinence. In 2007, for instance, he
voted against ensuring medically accurate and age-appropriate sex
education for public schools and voted for an abstinence-until-marriage
He voted to eliminate any state funding for organizations that
include abortion in the reproductive health spectrum. The bill read
that funds could not be granted to "an organization that has adopted or
maintains a policy in writing or through oral public statements that
abortion is considered part of a continuum of family planning services,
reproductive health services, or both." He voted to completely de-fund
the Minnesota AIDS Project. In 2005, he voted against a bill that would
have required hospitals to carry emergency contraceptives for victims
of sexual assault.
He repeatedly voted to create a 24-hour waiting period for abortion,
and he cosponsored a ballot initiative that would have outlawed
abortion in Minnesota in the event that the federal Roe v. Wade
standard was ever overturned.
Paulsen made friends with the religious right by opposing any
pro-LGBT legislation and actively working to enshrine religious right
issues into the constitution, voting twice for the Minnesota Marriage
Amendment, a bill that would amend the Minnesota Constitution to
permanently outlaw domestic partnership, civil unions or marriage for
same-sex couples. In 2005, he voted against allowing domestic partner
benefits for state employees.
On one issue, Paulsen has flipped his position away from the
religious right. In 2005, Paulsen voted to allow creationism, the
theory that God created the Earth in seven days and that the planet’s
history began 10,000 years ago, to be taught in Minnesota schools
alongside evolution. In 2008, he voted against such a measure.
In the legislature, Paulsen was a leading voice on behalf of
transforming Minnesota’s health care system to a conservative, free
market model. In 1996, he attempted to remove caps on deductibles for
MinnesotaCare enrollees (poor and uninsured Minnesotans) and to insert
language promoting ‘free market solutions’ to Minnesota’s goal of
universal health care. He sponsored a tort-restriction bill that would
have placed a $250,000 cap on awards to patients injured by medical
While not quite wanting to drown Minnesota’s government in a
bathtub, he did make moves to shrink it dramatically. He cosponsored
bills to reduce the size and scope of the legislature: one to make the
legislature meet once every other year and another to reduce the number
of legislators by almost a third.
On the drug war front, he cosponsored a bill to increase the
penalties for selling, advertising or possessing drug paraphernalia and
opposed allowing permits for Minnesota farmers to grow hemp.
Paulsen voted against increasing the minimum wage and voted for a
bill that reduced benefits paid to injured workers "in order to lower
costs for employers" [Star Tribune, May 23 1995].
On voting rights, he cosponsored a bill to tighten Minnesota’s
tradition of allowing neighbors to vouch for each other by requiring
oaths from three different residents of the precinct in every case. He
worked to ensure that Roseville’s bid to institute instant runoff
voting failed in 2004. "Just philosophically, there’s no need for the
state to be involved with this," Paulsen said. "People vote for the one
person they think should hold office, and you live with the results.
That’s democracy" [Pioneer Press, 2004].
He met with President Bush twice, once in 2003 and again in 2004, and gave the Bush a glowing review on CNN:
"I think Minnesotans really do appreciate the firm and steady
leadership. You know, the reality is, given 9/11′s situation, I think
Minnesotans especially want leadership that was going to be on the
offensive against terrorism. And that’s what we’ve seen with our
president. And I think that’s why Minnesota is – and there’s a strong
possibility of going to President Bush."