Minnesota’s 3rd district race could be a tossup

Every election since 1961, voters in MinnesotaâÄôs 3rd Congressional District have elected a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives. An affluent, suburban area comprising much of the western metropolitan area, the district has been a hotbed for Republicans, including current U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad. This year, however, with the popular congressman stepping down and what many see as a harsh political climate for Republicans, the district looks to be a virtual tossup between Republicans, Democrats and even independents. Larry Jacobs , director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance in the Humphrey Institute , called the race the âÄúperfect storm.âÄù âÄúAny time you have an open seat, it creates an unusual opportunity for new candidates to come in,âÄù he said. DFL candidate Ashwin Madia was the first of the candidates to take part in a week-long Humphrey Institute forum with the 3rd district candidates with his appearance on campus Monday. Madia said his district, which includes cities such as Edina, Bloomington and Minnetonka , is ready for something more than just electing a new candidate. âÄúWe need to try something new,âÄù he said. âÄúI think thatâÄôs the reason that the 3rd District is going to get behind change.âÄù Madia, 30, is an Iraq War veteran who has made ending the War a priority. HeâÄôs also a former Minnesota Student Association president who said itâÄôs important to identify why college costs are as high as they are. âÄúTo me, cost shouldnâÄôt be a reason why smart kids decide not to go to school,âÄù he said. Republican candidate Erik Paulsen, 43, is a veteran in the Minnesota House of Representatives, serving as majority leader in the past. Paulsen, who will be on campus Tuesday, said he could reform Congress. âÄúCongress needs to learn to live within its means,âÄù he said. âÄúWashington just needs to change the way it does business.âÄù Ramstad has endorsed Paulsen, and has been campaigning for him, Paulsen said. âÄúHe taught me the importance of civility in politics,âÄù Paulsen said. Independence Party candidate David Dillon, who will be on campus Friday, said he could change Washington better than either of his rivals. Dillon, an entrepreneur running for office for the first time, accused the other candidates as being stalwarts to their parties. âÄúThe red guys and blue guys have made a dogâÄôs breakfast out of the deal,âÄù he said. An Oct. 8 SurveryUSA poll showed Madia with a three-point advantage over Paulsen. In August, Paulsen led by the same margin . Dillon polled at six percent in October. âÄúThe district politically is very purple,âÄù Dillon said. Add large campaign contributions to that, and the race is a virtual dead heat. Madia raised nearly $1 million in the third quarter of 2008 alone, according to his campaign . Both the Madia and the Paulsen campaigns said their candidates have raised more than $2 million since the race began. Dillon had raised more than $157,000 as of Sept. 30, according to Federal Elections Commission filings. âÄúThat is a lot of money for Minnesota,âÄù Paulsen said, adding he expects to be outspent by $2 million on television ads alone. The election is three weeks from Tuesday. Jacobs said the 3rd district race looks to be shaken up from years past. âÄúYouâÄôve got a district that has been changing in pretty significant ways,âÄù he said. âÄúThis race is no longer the safe Republican seat that it once had been.âÄù