Who is Erik Paulsen, anyway?

Erik Paulsen is my representative to the US Congress. This is his first term. He replaced a very centrist Republican (Jim Ramstad) who retired honorably. I worked for the Democratic Party (DFL, we call it in Minnesota) candidate, Ash Madia during that election. Ash was a good candidate but he was inexperienced (which may or may not have been a factor) not quite waspy enough for this very waspy district (which may or may not have been a factor), and although his politics matched those of the district’s constituents quite well (at least as well as the long-lasting Jim Ramstad’s politics did) he was probably viewed as too liberal and people chose the “centrist” candidate Erik Paulsen.

But people are not always smart about these things (sorry, people, but I gotta be honest about that). Erik Paulsen was actually one of the more conservative members of the State Republican delegation in the Minnesota State House, far to the right of the average 3rd district voter, but when he ran for congress, he disguised himself as a centrist and promised, more or less, to be a Ramstad Republican. But he’s not.

Paulsen opposed the “public option,” claiming that this would be a government takeover of health care. In fact, he claims that the current bill (which does not have public option) is a government takeover anyway. I think Representative Paulsen may not know what the word “option” means. Or “Takeover.” Paulsen voted against the recently debated American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. He appears to be a global warming denialist. Paulsen voted against the 2009 Wall Street Reform act designed to protect consumers. He appears to be against regular people.

He is anti-choice and anti-gay, based on his prior record in Minnesota.

So before he ran in the liberal-for-a-Republican district he was as right-leaning as any member of the Minnesota congressional delegation. Then he got liberal-ish. Then he got to Washington. So, where does he stand now?

According to him, he is not like that one particular other member of Congress from Minnesota, the infamous Michele “Investigate My Enemies” Bachmann. Paulsen explicitly separates himself from Bachmann by running an essay by Derek Wallbank on his web site that includes this:

Contrast [Paulsen's position on various issues] … with his neighbor to the north, Michele Bachmann. She has become a regular on Fox News and Sean Hannity’s radio show, emerged as a darling of the Tea Party right and is now called upon by conservatives across the nation to headline their rallies and fundraisers. Several in the Republican caucus are trying to copy her model for a stratospheric rise in the conservative esteem, but seemingly not Paulsen.

So Paulsen is maintaining his distance from Bachmann, as a continuation of the “I’m not too right wing for Plymouth (one of our centrist suburbs)” persona. But is it true? Is Paulsen different from Bachmann?

Well, it turns out that he isn’t except in one area. Paulsen is a bit more liberal on water conservation issues than Bachmann. Otherwise, he seems to be pretty much a Bachmann clone.

So far this year, the house has voted just under 300 times. Of those, Bachmann and Paulsen both voted (i.e, neither was marked as “not voting” which we presume is absent from the House) a total of 282 times. Of those, they voted the same way 271 times. Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen voted the same way, according to this year’s voting record, over 96% of the time.

How were they different?

Paulsen favored recognizing the significant accomplishments of AmeriCorps, and supporting the goals and ideals of National Train Day. Bachmann voted against these things. Paulsen was in favor of reauthorizing the Federal Water Pollution Control Act’s Estuary Program, and two or three other water-related conservation bills. Apparently Michele Bachmann does not like natural water or trains.

They both voted against the Home Star Retrofit Rebate Program (aka “cash for caulkers”) and for Mother’s day. They both voted for National Assistant Principals Week (those are usually the disciplinarians, right?) and against disaster relief and summer jobs. Generally, they voted against Obama, against regular people, against home owners, and in favor of selected ideals and corporate interests.

In virtual lockstep.

If you would like to see the voting record, here’s a PDF, compiled from data provided on Govtrack.us.

If you are a voter in the Third District who voted for Paulsen, you may already know about this. If you’re a Third Districter who voted for Ash Madia (and good for you if you did) then you really, really want to know about this. Either way, you may want to explore other options this year, because it appears that Representative Paulsen, aka “Son of Bachmann,” is running for re-election.