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Rep. Erik Paulsen cruises to fifth term in Minnesota 3rd District

MinnPost file photo by Brian Halliday
Rep. Erik Paulsen has won re-election, defeating DFL state Sen. Terri Bonoff.

This 2016 race was billed as his toughest challenge yet, but ultimately, it wasn’t really close: 3rd District Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen has won re-election, defeating DFL state Sen. Terri Bonoff.

With the vast majority of precincts reporting, Paulsen earned 56.70% of the vote, while Bonoff got 43.01%.

Bonoff, who represented Minnetonka and Plymouth in the state Senate, entered the race in April 2016, when it became clear Donald Trump would be the GOP nominee.

CD3 quickly became a nationally-watched race, with both Democratic and Republican party organizations dumping millions of dollars in outside money into the race.

Democrats believed Trump — who performed poorly in Minnesota’s suburbs on caucus night — could make Paulsen vulnerable. Bonoff and her allies in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee labored to connect Paulsen and Trump; later in the race, they argued he was out-of-step with the district on abortion, gun control, and other issues.

Paulsen ran a textbook anti-Democrat campaign, framing Bonoff as a tax-and-spend liberal and connecting her to the Minnesota health care exchange’s woes. High-profile surrogates, like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, came to CD3 to campaign on Paulsen’s behalf.

Voters here, who are used to splitting their tickets, separated Trump from the rest of the ticket. At press time, Paulsen was outperforming Trump by 16 points.  

Minnesota’s 3rd District, which encompasses the suburbs to the west of Minneapolis, has often selected Democrats at the top of the ticket while electing middle-of-the-road Republicans, like Paulsen and former Rep. Jim Ramstad.

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