Early voting has begun throughout the state ahead of the Aug. 14 primary in Minnesota. A lot is at stake, with an open governor’s seat, two senate races and four congressional seats that are ranked as toss-ups.

Just 10 days ago, President Donald Trump campaigned for Minnesota Republicans in Duluth. But one Republican member of Congress was noticeably absent: 3rd District congressman Erik Paulsen.

An aide to Paulsen said the day Trump came to Duluth, the congressman was in Washington voting. Paulsen won his 2016 race against a popular Minnesota state senator by nearly 15 points. But the west suburban district was also won decisively by Hillary Clinton, and that is why the nationally-known Cook Political Report has ranked it as a tossup.

The Democratic Party-endorsed candidate is Dean Phillips, an heir to the Phillips liquor fortune and a businessman and philanthropist. He has been running an aggressive campaign for well over a year arguing Paulsen is simply too conservative for the district.

Asked if he thinks he can beat Paulsen, Phillips said, “Absolutely … the power of incumbency in this country is significant, however change is coming. There is an energy throughout the country, particularly in the 3rd Congressional District.”

Paulsen has tried to distance himself from the president on issues like trade, where he has been sharply critical of Trump’s tariff proposals.

The five-term incumbent has faced a wave of criticisms and protests for failing to hold in person town hall meetings. Paulsen did hold three town halls in one day in late May. His critics say that is too little, too late.

By Esme Murphy

Click here to read the original posting at CBS Minnesota (7/1/18).

Click here to watch Esme Murphy talk with Dean Phillips, the DFL-endorsed candidate for Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, on WCCO Sunday Morning (7/1/18).

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