Brand-New “Moderate”: Minnesota Rep. Paulsen Runs from His Record

Andy Birkey

During 14 years in the Minnesota Legislature, State Rep. Erik Paulsen strongly supported attacks on reproductive health care. You won't hear him mentioning that in his run for Congress.

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.

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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
school curriculum.

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
malpractice.

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."

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Criticizes Trump’s Child-Care Proposal in Economic Speech

Ally Boguhn

Hillary Clinton may be wooing Republicans alienated by Trump, but she's also laying out economic policies that could shore up her progressive base. Meanwhile, Trump's comments about "Second Amendment people" stopping Hillary Clinton judicial appointments were roundly condemned.

Hillary Clinton may be courting Republicans, but that didn’t stop her from embracing progressive economic policies and criticizing her opponent’s child-care plan this week, and Donald Trump suggested there could be a way for “Second Amendment people” to deal with his rival’s judicial appointments should she be elected.

Clinton Blasts Trump’s Child-Care Proposal, Embraces Progressive Policies in Economic Speech

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took aim at Republican nominee Donald Trump’s recently announced proposal to make the average cost of child care fully deductible during her own economic address Thursday in Michigan.

“We know that women are now the sole or primary breadwinner in a growing number of families. We know more Americans are cobbling together part-time work, or striking out on their own. So we have to make it easier to be good workers, good parents, and good caregivers, all at the same time,” Clinton said before pivoting to address her opponent’s plan. “That’s why I’ve set out a bold vision to make quality, affordable child care available to all Americans and limit costs to 10 percent of family income.”

“Previously, [Trump] dismissed concerns about child care,” Clinton told the crowd. “He said it was, quote, ‘not an expensive thing’ because you just need some blocks and some swings.”

“He would give wealthy families 30 or 40 cents on the dollar for their nannies, and little or nothing for millions of hard-working families trying to afford child care so they can get to work and keep the job,” she continued.

Trump’s child-care proposal has been criticized by economic and family policy experts who say his proposed deductions for the “average” cost of child care would do little to help low- and middle-wage earners and would instead advantage the wealthy. Though the details of his plan are slim, the Republican nominee’s campaign has claimed it would also allow “parents to exclude child care expenses from half of their payroll taxes.” Experts, however, told CNN doing so would be difficult to administer.

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Clinton provided a different way to cut family child-care costs: “I think instead we should expand the Child Tax Credit to provide real relief to tens of millions of working families struggling with the cost of raising children,” Clinton said in Michigan on Thursday. “The same families [Donald Trump’s] plan ignores.”

Clinton also voiced her support for several progressive policy positions in her speech, despite a recent push to feature notable Republicans who now support her in her campaign.

“In her first major economic address since her campaign began actively courting the Republicans turned off by Donald Trump, Clinton made no major pivot to the ideological center,” noted NBC News in a Thursday report on the speech. “Instead, Clinton reiterated several of the policy positions she adopted during her primary fight against Bernie Sanders, even while making a direct appeal to Independent voters and Republicans.”

Those positions included raising the minimum wage, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, advocating for equal pay and paid family leave, and supporting a public health insurance option.

“Today’s speech shows that getting some Republicans to say Donald Trump is unfit to be president is not mutually exclusive with Clinton running on bold progressives ideas like debt-free college, expanding Social Security benefits and Wall Street reform,” said Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in a statement to NBC.

Donald Trump: Could “Second Amendment People” Stop Clinton Supreme Court Picks?

Donald Trump suggested that those who support gun ownership rights may be able to stop Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from appointing judges to the Supreme Court should she be elected.

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump told a crowd of supporters during a Tuesday rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. “By the way … if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people—maybe there is. I don’t know.” 

Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller later criticized the “dishonest media” for reporting on Trump’s comments and glossed over any criticism of the candidate in a statement posted to the campaign’s website Tuesday. “It’s called the power of unification―Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” said Miller. “And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”

“This is simple—what Trump is saying is dangerous,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, in a statement responding to the Republican nominee’s suggestion. “A person seeking to be the President of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”

Gun safety advocates and liberal groups swiftly denounced Trump’s comments as violent and inappropriate for a presidential candidate.

“This is just the latest example of Trump inciting violence at his rallies—and one that belies his fundamental misunderstanding of the Second Amendment, which should be an affront to the vast majority of responsible gun owners in America,” Erika Soto Lamb, chief communications officer of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a Tuesday statement. “He’s unfit to be president.”

Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, also said in a Tuesday press release, “There has been no shortage of inexcusable rhetoric from Trump, but suggesting gun violence is truly abhorrent. There is no place in our public discourse for this kind of statement, especially from someone seeking the nation’s highest office.”

Trump’s comments engaged in something called “stochastic terrorism,” according to David Cohen, an associate professor at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, in a Tuesday article for Rolling Stone.

“Stochastic terrorism, as described by a blogger who summarized the concept several years back, means using language and other forms of communication ‘to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable,’” said Cohen. “Stated differently: Trump puts out the dog whistle knowing that some dog will hear it, even though he doesn’t know which dog.”

“Those of us who work against anti-abortion violence unfortunately know all about this,” Cohen continued, pointing to an article from Valerie Tarico in which she describes a similar pattern of violent rhetoric leading up to the murders that took place at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

What Else We’re Reading

Though Trump has previously claimed he offered on-site child-care services for his employees, there is no record of such a program, the Associated Press reports.

History News Network attempted to track down how many historians support Trump. They only found five (besides Newt Gingrich).

In an article questioning whether Trump will energize the Latino voting bloc, Sergio Bustos and Nicholas Riccardi reported for the Associated Press: “Many Hispanic families have an immense personal stake in what happens on Election Day, but despite population numbers that should mean political power, Hispanics often can’t vote, aren’t registered to vote, or simply choose to sit out.”

A pair of physicians made the case for why Gov. Mike Pence “is radically anti-public health,” citing the Republican vice presidential candidate’s “policies on tobacco, women’s health and LGBTQ rights” in a blog for the Huffington Post.

Ivanka Trump has tried to act as a champion for woman-friendly workplace policies, but “the company that designs her clothing line, including the $157 sheath she wore during her [Republican National Convention] speech, does not offer workers a single day of paid maternity leave,” reported the Washington Post.

The chair of the American Nazi Party claimed a Trump presidency would be “a real opportunity” for white nationalists.

NPR analyzed how Clinton and Trump might take on the issue of campus sexual assault.

Rewire’s own editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, explained in a Thursday commentary how Trump’s comments are just the latest example of Republicans’ use of violent rhetoric and intimidation in order to gain power.

News Politics

Somali-American Activist Ilhan Omar Makes History During Minnesota Democratic Party Primary

Michelle D. Anderson

Omar's win means she will likely become the first Somali-American legislator in the United States.

Ilhan Omar, a noted feminist and liberal policy advocate from Minnesota, has won the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party primary in the 60B Minneapolis House district.

Her win means she will likely become the first Somali-American legislator in the United States, the Star-Tribune reported Tuesday. It also means incumbent DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn, who was first elected to the House in 1972, will not serve a 23rd term.

After the primary results came in, Kahn told the Star-Tribune that Omar “mobilized a lot of people that we didn’t see before in previous elections.” This year, according to Omar’s campaign, 5,868 people from the district voted in the primary—an increase of 37 percent from the 2014 primary.

Omar, 33, currently works as the director of policy initiatives at Women Organizing Women, a local nonprofit organization that seeks to empower women to become engaged citizens and community leaders, according to the group’s official website.

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The group has a special focus on first– and second-generation immigrant women like Omar, who describes herself as an “intersectional feminist, mom, part-time social justice crusader, full-time political junkie” on Twitter.

On November 8, Omar will face Republican Abdimalik Askar, a Somali-American elementary school principal and community entrepreneur in the general election. If Omar wins, she will represent an area that includes the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, a community with a large number of Somali and East African immigrants, along with the University of Minnesota. The Star-Tribune noted that the district is “heavily DFL.”

“Our campaign is about connecting with people and engaging them in the political process. We are uniting the diverse voices of our district—long term residents, East African immigrants and students. I will make sure their voices are heard at the Capitol,” Omar said in an official statement released after her primary win.

She added that as a woman of color, people told her she would not be able to raise money and win the election.

“Those people were wrong, and I want every young woman of color out there to know that they have the power—and support—to run for office and win,” Omar said.

Omar’s platform includes criminal justice reform, instituting more environmental protections, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and making higher education more accessible. She also wants to enact police reforms, including banning stops for vehicle violations like expired license plate tags and broken taillights. “Instead, we should institute a policy where police car dash cams be used to assign tickets objectively. If such a law were in place, Philando Castile would still be alive,” her platform states. Castile was fatally shot by police officers outside of St. Paul last month after being pulled over for a reportedly broken taillight.

In the past, Omar has helped to ban environmentally harmful containers; pass a city ordinance to allow businesses to extend their hours to accommodate Muslims celebrating Ramadan; and win paid parental leave for City of Minneapolis employees, according to her campaign.

Omar, who was born in Somalia, immigrated to the United States after her family escaped a civil war and lived in a Kenyan refugee camp for four years.

Her official bio says that her interest in politics began as a 14-year-old student who acted as an interpreter for her grandfather at local DFL caucuses.

“It was a free process and it wasn’t like the one he was exposed to,” Omar told the Guardian earlier this year. “In America you could be involved in a political party and you didn’t have to be a member of a specific class.”

Omar went on to earn degrees in business administration, political science, and international studies and complete a policy fellowship at University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Her professional experience includes working as a community health educator at the University of Minnesota and as a senior policy aid for Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson.

In the weeks leading up to her win, Omar won the public endorsements of former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and several local activists and University of Minnesota students.

“From a refugee camp to the State Capitol with intelligence and insight,” Rybak told the Star-Tribune. “This is a wonderful story to tell as Americans, and a great source of pride for the state of Minnesota’s open arms.”

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