Unless you already have a ticket, you won’t be able to see or hear Congressman Erik Paulsen (R) make one of his very few joint appearances with his opponent Jim Meffert (DFL) during Wednesday’s Edina Chamber of Commerce Third District Congressional Candidate Forum. Chamber President Arrie Larsen Manti says no cameras (video or still) or audio recording devices by news media or anyone else will be allowed at the event. Media will be allowed to attend if they make pre-arrangements, but they will have to use a “pad and pen,” says Larsen Manti.
The Chamber’s President says the reason for the restrictions are not logistical. She’s not worried about cameras or microphones getting in the way. She says it was decided some time ago that no recordings would be allowed.
Of all the debates and forums in Minnesota this political season, the Edina Chamber is the first one we’ve found that has forbidden any recording by the media or the public. Asked about transparency and the need for the public to see the debate, Larsen Manti said that Paulsen and Meffert had debated for the League of Women Voters. That debate was aired on KSTC-TV on October 12 and is available online.
Unlike the Minnesota Governor’s race which has seen more than 25 debates (most of them can be seen in The UpTake’s Debate Central), Minnesota’s Third Congressional District has had only one debate so far. A second one is scheduled for Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday. The Chamber event will be the third and final meeting between the two candidates before election.
The Edina Chamber’s no camera rule appears to be exactly what Paulsen’s campaign wants. Paulsen’s campaign has avoided any debate or forum that is open to a live audience and can be recorded by the public.
Meffert campaign manager Alex Falconer commented earlier this year about Paulsen’s lack of debating:
“The truth is that Erik Paulsen will do anything to avoid debating Jim Meffert in front of the voters. He knows his record of voting with Michele Bachmann and the extreme right wing over 93% of the time is far out of step with the views of the Third District. He knows he has everything to lose by talking about what he’s done since we sent him to Congress.
“In a classic career politician move, Paulsen agreed to one televised debate in order to avoid discussing his record in front of the voters. He thinks an hour on television, plus a couple of ads, should be good enough to get him reelected. And worse, he thinks he can get away with it. The voters deserve to know that their Congressman is trying to buy this seat without discussion of his Bachmann-like votes against Pell grants, small business loans, health care, and equal pay for women.”
“The only ‘ridiculous’ part of this discussion is that Paulsen is dodging public debates and expecting voters not to mind. The voters are outraged, and they have every right to be. The Third District deserves public debates on the issues and Paulsen’s votes, and we are going to continue to push for them.”
Also participating in the Edina Chamber’s forum on Wednesday will be Independence Party candidate Jon Oleson.