Paulsen returns to Congress

Erik Paulsen embraces his wife Kelly after his victory speech on Election Night. (Photo by Paul Groessel – Sun Newspapers)

Erik Paulsen embraces his wife Kelly after his victory speech on Election Night. (Photo by Paul Groessel – Sun Newspapers)

BY PAUL GROESSEL – SUN NEWSPAPERS

Republican incumbent Erik Paulsen has won re-election in the Third U.S. Congressional District race against Democratic challenger Brian Barnes.

With all of the votes tallied Wednesday morning, Paulsen won with 58 percent of the 382,715 votes cast for the race.

Paulsen gave his victory speech Tuesday night when approximately 50 percent of precincts had reported their numbers, showing Paulsen with more than 60 percent of those votes.

The news was well received during the Republican election party at the Hilton Minneapolis-Bloomington Hotel since it came shortly after Kurt Bills gave his concession speech in his run against Democratic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.

The crowd cheered not only over Paulsen’s win, but other expected results for the makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We got one win on the board, and look this is going to be a long night. … There are more wins to come, without any doubt. The good news is the House is going to stay in hands of the Republican majority,” Paulsen said.

After 77 percent of precincts reported, Barnes called Paulsen to congratulate him on a victory and then released a statement to the press.

“Tonight didn’t end as we would’ve liked, but this campaign has never been about just one election,” Barnes said in the statement.

Despite a campaign where Barnes often said Paulsen’s voting record reflected the partisanship divide in Congress, Barnes noted that despite their differences, Paulsen has set a good example.

“Erik Paulsen and I don’t agree on much, but he’s proven time and again that it’s possible to disagree on policy without making it personal. Members of both parties in Washington could stand to be a little more like him in that regard.”

The Barnes campaign was making calls within an hour of polls closing. High school-age volunteers – including a 17-year-old website master – were stationed in the basement of the campaign’s main office in Maple Grove. They had already dialed 13,000 phone numbers up to that point.

Barnes had been up spreading the last-day word since 4:30 a.m., he said, starting with a high-traffic park-and-ride in Eden Prairie.

After stopping by the campaign headquarters, it was off to three state-level DFL “victory parties” before going to the Democratic Party’s party in St. Paul for the evening.

Republicans were not too far away, in Bloomington.

Republican party goers were filing into the Hilton, where some individual state and federal candidates set up shop one floor above the main ballroom.

In the ballroom media lined the back wall; campaign signs plastered all four, garnished here and there with abandoned drinks.

Guests watched Fox News’ Election Night coverage and booed or cheered as projections turned blue or red. Their milling and watching were sometimes interrupted by a costumed musical ensemble, “Da Band,” that would slowly but energetically march into the center of the ballroom and play a tune or two.

That celebration ceased with a concession speech from Bills, but was later rejuvenated with Paulsen’s victory proclamation.

During his speech, Paulsen did address issues he’d like to face in his next term.

“The truth is Washington has been on the wrong track for far too long, and our country faces some pretty significant challenges,” Paulsen said. “Our economy needs a boost to help create and grow jobs.

“There’s no doubt that small business needs the confidence and the stability and the predictability to know that they’re not going to be buried under new taxes and regulations.

“And we’ve got to work to avoid a debt crisis that is staring this country in the face, and we’ve got to make Washington understand that you can’t spend more money than you take in.”

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