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Hackett and Meffert vie for right to face Paulsen in CD 3

Psychiatrist Maureen Hackett of Minnetonka and former lobbyist Jim Meffert of Edina, who are seeking the DFL endorsement for Congress from the suburban Third District, debated Tuesday evening at an Edina middle school. With the legislature in session, the race for governor in full swing and the higher-profile congressional race in the Sixth District (Michele Bachmann equals higher profile), the contest in the Third isn’t getting much notice. Plus, the incumbent Repub, freshman Rep. Erik Paulsen isn’t looking nearly as vulnerable as Dems had hoped a year ago.

For a colorful, personal impression of the debate, I commend to you this account by blogger Gavin Sullivan (who ran for the seat himself a couple of cycles back). Sullivan is not afraid to tell you what he really thinks. He pays more attention to the candidates’ styles than he does to their substance.

Unfortunately for for Meffert and Hackett, one thing that Sullivan thinks (and that is widely shared by the punditocracy that is always trying to figure out which congressional races might be close) is that Paulsen is not very vulnerable in 2010. The 3rd District, which encompasses many western and southern suburbs of Mpls., may be as close to a swing district as we have in Minnesota these days, and freshmen in swing districts are supposed to be vulnerable. And Paulsen is more conservative than his famously moderate predecessor, Jim Ramstad.

But Paulsen, a former leader of the state House Republicans, has done an impressive job of raising money and avoiding controversy. On that latter score, although he is quite conservative, he is sort of the anti-Bachmann. As my teammate Derek Wallbank reported from Washington yesterday, Charlie Cook of the Cook Political report recently changed the race from a rating of “likely Republican,” which is one notch short of safe, to “solid,” which is Cook’s term for “the incumbent is safe this cycle.

Hackett, in addition to being a psychiatrist, is also an Air Force vet. Meffert, in addition to his work with the state Optometric Association, was also state president of the PTA.

According to Sullivan, Meffert advocated a constitutional amendment to undo the recent Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited political spending by corportations. Here’s the issues page from Hackett’s website. Here’s Sullivan’s on the one hand, on the other conclusion:

“A seasoned political pro would likely find a female candidate preferable, to go up against Erik Paulsen.  And you might be reluctant to go with Meffert–whose thumbnail sketch looks so similar to the incumbent’s. 

That said, I score this evening’s forensic a slight Meffert win–though I didn’t hear any Hackett supporters express dissatisfaction with their candidate’s performance.  It remains an open race.”

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