Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen is running to keep his job in the western suburbs that make up Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District. Getting in front of seniors is important since they’re a reliable voting block in a competitive race. “They’re tuned into issues, the election – good people to be in front of obviously as voters,” Paulsen says about the seniors at this assisted living facility he’s visiting in Maple Grove. Despite being a top target, down in the polls, the former state lawmaker has prevailed in tough elections before.

Democratic Challenger Dean Phillips is up before the sun, driving his vintage “Government Repair Truck” into the parking lot at Armstrong High School. Here the businessman, known for selling coffee and conversations, is reaching out to students, some who are just old enough to vote. It was Phillips’s teenager-daughters’s reaction to the 2016 election that caused him to run. “I watched their fear, anxiety, tears after that election, and I woke up the next morning and, at our breakfast table, I promised I would do something,” Phillips says.

Bush, Obama, Clinton Won District Before

In the last decade, the 3rd Congressional District has been politically competitive. President George Bush won here twice, followed by two victories for President Barack Obama. But most recently, Hillary Clinton bested President Donald Trump by about 10 percentage points. Trump recently surprised Paulsen by endorsing him in a tweet, even though Paulsen hasn’t appeared with him at any campaign stops in the state. “I mean, look, Trump is Trump, he’s going to do what he’s going to to,” Paulsen says about the President. “I wish he’d endorse some of my positions, like protecting the Boundary Waters or on trade, as opposed to endorsing my campaign.”

Phillips is running a different type of campaign, talking with students about climate change, health care and voter engagement. “Something has changed and for the better, which is another reason I am so hopeful. Now young people do recognize me and do come up and ask questions.” Some students shared how much they liked the innovative Bigfoot ad the Democrat ran that pokes fun at the Republican. Maybe it should be no surprise Phillips is using media in an interesting way since his adoptive grandmother and aunt are legendary columnists Dear Abby and Ann Landers.

Bigfoot Ad Brings Humor in Negative Ad War

Regarding the Bigfoot ad that was popular online and a shortened version ran briefly on television, Paulsen says, “I haven’t seen it, I heard about it. The premise is entirely false. I have such a good record of being accessible, probably the only member of the delegation that has open office hours.” Phillips says he wanted to “bring some humor to an industry that needs it and also point out truth. Paulsen has had fewer public events in seven years than I’ve had in a week.”