Ya gotta wonder when Erik Paulsen got a whiff of the rumor that he might get a top tier challenger in his quest for re-election … was it during his Bill Gates funded trip to Kenya or was it when he was counting the $516,350 in campaign checks that he reported on his recent FEC filing ?
Well, the good news for Erik Paulsen is that the challenge is not from within the party … after all, there are really three parties in Congress today … the Paulsen Washington Establishment Party, the Freedom Caucus Party and the Democratic Farmer Labor Party.
Yep, Erik Paulsen will not lose in a contested primary as Eric Cantor did in 2014.
Nope, the challenge is coming from State Senator Terri Bonoff (DFL-SD44) and the Paulsen’s team issued a statement through campaign manager John-Paul Yates calling Bonoff “a failed congressional candidate retread back for another try. Bonoff’s record will be a heavy, heavy weight around her campaign again. Bonoff raised income, gas and sales taxes on Minnesota families and rewarded herself with a fat 35 percent pay raise,” referring to some of her votes as a Minnesota legislator.
OK … some interesting assertions …
“a failed congressional candidate retread back for another try” … well, that deserves some context as Terri Bonoff’s name has never been on a primary or general election for Congress. Yes, she did seek the 2008 DFL endorsement for the District but that ended in April … long before the primary election.
Heck, “a failed congressional candidate retread back for another try” claim better fits David Gerson, who lost in a 2012 MNGOP primary election and 2014 endorsing convention election for Minnesota’s Second District … David Gerson would fit the Freedom Caucus Party role if he is elected this year. Heck, Stewart Mills III is back for another try in Minnesota’s Eighth … so if there is a concern that the “failed congressional candidate retread” cannot win, the MN-GOP has a problem. And this may be bad news for Paulsen-staffer, Jake Coleman, the son of former Senator Norm Coleman, who lost in a bid for State Senate District 47 … maybe the Coleman name being associated as “a failed congressional candidate retread” was too much for the endorsing convention.
“Bonoff raised income, gas and sales taxes on Minnesota families and rewarded herself with a fat 35 percent pay raise” … well, that deserves some context also.
Let’s hit the obvious one … a 35% raise sounds like a lot … but let us remember that Terri Bonoff’s salary is the same as every other State Senator. When first elected in 2005, her annual salary was $31,140. That was the same amount that had been in effect since 1998 but under a plan crafted and approved by the nonpartisan Minnesota Compensation Council, state legislators’ salary would change to $42,118 in 2016.
Now, let’s put this in context … did you know that Erik Paulsen has a full-time Congressional staff of over thirteen employees ? For example, one of the employees is District Director John-Paul Yates whose 2015 salary was $84,500 … hmmm, so someone who also earns a paycheck from the Paulsen for Congress campaign is complaining about Minnesota State Senator pay. Mr. Yates, is not the only taxpayer-paid employee who earns more than a Minnesota legislator as Congressman Paulsen’s Chief of Staff is his highest paid employee at over $168,000 … heck, even Congressman Paulsen’s Scheduler was paid more than a Minnesota State Senator. For comparison, Congressman Paulsen salary is currently at $174,000 … which he “earns” regardless of government shutdown (hmmm … remember when some Members donated their salary to food shelves and veterans groups but Erik Paulsen was not listed on the story ?)
OK … so let’s move on from the 35% salary “reward” to the assertion of “Bonoff raised income, gas and sales taxes” claim.
As a State Senator, Bonoff has a long voting record on legislative proposals … no doubt some are “gotcha” votes designed to be used in future elections to brand the incumbent while some are spending resolutions that must be made. As a Congressman, Paulsen also has the same long record … but also from his years in the Minnesota legislature as well as in Congress … and heck, there may be some votes where Bonoff and Paulsen voted in sync … like the H.F. 785 … surely, every Minnesota smoker remembers that bill which changed the tax rates on cigarettes (cigarette taxes generated $835 million in fiscal years 2006 and 2007 — $501 million more than they did in fiscal years 2004 and 2005.) And let us not forget the 2.5% tax on alcohol that Minnesotans saw as a result of that vote. Yep, State Representative Paulsen has also voted in favor of taxes … of course that was at the state level where the budget has to be balanced.
And that is a BIG difference between funding the State of Minnesota and the federal government … simply put, the state’s budget must be balanced, but Congress can simply raise the debt ceiling and deficit spend. Raising the debt ceiling has been a common occurrence during the Paulsen years … from his first term (August 1, 2011 as 174 Republicans said YES versus the 66 Republicans that said NO to raise the U.S. debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion [ hmmm … rephrase that 174 Washington Establishment versus 66 Freedom Caucus] and put in sequence the sequester … a fiscal decision to punt … leading to the recent HR 83 Cromnibus (Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015) which listed Congressman Paulsen in the YES column – in what was described as a “$1.1 trillion, 1,603-page spending bill”.
Worse yet, today’s Congress still has not held a vote on FY2017 budget (the statutory due date was April 15th) and that problem is dividing the Washington Establishment and the Freedom Caucus further.
As the 2016 campaign evolves it will be interesting to watch the contest between Paulsen and Bonoff … the Paulsen Record of accepting deficit increases to protect his political contributors versus the Bonoff Brand of “Uniting the Middle”
I am running for Congress because I am determined to bring my brand of governance and leadership to Washington. My brand is not about partisanship and it’s not about politics. In my eleven years in the State Senate, my work has been about building bridges, forging partnerships, and exchanging ideas. The challenges we face in our State, our nation, and our world are grave and demand our best thinking and selfless action.
I am deeply concerned by the divisive rhetoric coming from the current Republican presidential candidates. I believe this very public discourse is a blemish on our nation and our future. Rather than watch this play out on TV, I have decided to jump into this fray and do all I can to transform the current conversation from one of attack to one of bold ideas, strong values, and pathways for prosperity and abundance for all.
My decade-long campaign slogan, “Uniting The Middle” is more important today then ever before. I pledge to do just that.
As an independent voter, it’s good to have two experienced legislators competing … let’s hope that the Paulsen Campaign moves past the character assassination and sniping at the competition … let’s hear the candidates debate their issues.