What happened at Rep. Erik Paulsen's town halls?

The 3rd District Congressman has been criticized for not meeting constituents in a town hall setting.
Publish date:

Rep. Erik Paulsen came face-to-face with constituents at three separate town halls on Wednesday.

The Republican is facing a stern challenge from Democrat Dean Philips as he seeks to hold onto his 3rd District seat, and has faced criticism from some constituents for his lack of public meetings.

In response, Paulsen held events in Hamel, Chanhassen and Brooklyn Park on Wednesday – here's a snapshot of how they went.

It was pretty polite

Unlike the ugly scenes that have marred other Republican town halls since the election of President Donald Trump, proceedings during Paulsen's town halls were kept pretty civil.

The event was ticketed but Paulsen's campaign says attendees were selected randomly, so there were opposition voices among those attending.

Some audience members brought "green" and "red" cards that they would raise when they agreed and disagreed with something he said.

He was questioned intensely about gun control

Some of the most intense exchanges with constituents concerned gun control, with attendees at all three events quizzing Paulsen on what has become a hot button issue for voters.

They asked what measures he backs and asked whether he would continue to accept donations from the NRA, as he has done in the past.

"I don't expect the NRA to send me a check, so that's the way I'm going to answer the question. I don't expect them to," he told constituents in Brooklyn Park, some of whom jeered that he didn't give a straight answer when questioned whether he would return an NRA check should one arrive.

You can see one of these exchanges at 22:49 in this video from Indivisible (which opposes Paulsen).

He did say he approves the banning of bump stocks, which were used in the Las Vegas massacre, as well as measures allowing guns to be seized from people deemed safety risks by authorities, the Star Tribune reports.

He tried to distance himself from President Donald Trump

Two months ago, Paulsen was hailed by the visiting VP Mike Pence as "standing shoulder-to-shoulder" with President Donald Trump, and some in attendance noted that he had voted most of the time in line with the president and Republicans in Congress.

But on Wednesday, Paulsen made efforts to distance himself from the president, saying that he opposes the president's stance on immigration, doesn't believe that Russian meddling in elections is getting the attention it deserves, and backs Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

"One thing we have to make sure is for the independent investigation to continue and reach its complete conclusion," Paulsen said, to applause from the audience.

He also admitted not voting for the president and said he wasn't a good role model for children, though notes that some of his policies are now helping the country – such as the Tax Cut and Jobs Act that he fully supports.

There were still complaints about attendance

Paulsen's fellow Congressman Jason Lewis was criticized for how attendees were selected for his own town halls earlier this month, with some accusing his team of handpicking the audience so it was mostly filled by his own supporters.

And while there were opponents of Paulsen at the randomly-selected ticketed town halls on Wednesday, some constituents were angered when pictures emerged of the empty space in the Brooklyn Park venue, despite many being denied tickets.

This prompted criticism from Indivisible, the grassroots organization set up to oppose Paulsen and Trump's policies, as well as members of Dean Philips' campaign.

MPR reports that Paulsen said the event required a ticket "because as we've seen around the country, people come in that don't live in your district and they shout each other down."

"Thankfully in Minnesota we've still got the civil component, which we want to maintain."

Next Up