Voters in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District should feel fortunate to have two strong, experienced candidates on the ballot. The decision in this race was difficult, but the Editorial Board believes Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen should be returned for a fifth term.

Paulsen, 51, is Minnesota’s voice on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and the Joint Economic Committee, which focuses on economic growth and job creation. He also is the co-chair of the House Medical Technology Caucus, a critical position for a state with a sizeable med-tech industry.

As co-chair of the trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Caucus, Paulsen has advocated for free trade and continues to be a strong supporter, even in the face of anti-trade sentiment fostered by his party’s nominee, whom Paulsen recently renounced.

That is the kind of stature incumbency can bring, and Paulsen should continue using it to Minnesota’s advantage. Congress needs more moderate Republicans like Paulsen.

State Sen. Terri Bonoff, 59, the Democratic challenger, is knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and unafraid to display bold leadership and go against her party when she feels it necessary. Her advocacy for teacher-tenure reform, which this page has long admired, has cost her the support of the powerful teachers union, Education Minnesota.

Despite the avalanche of ads attempting to paint her as a typical tax-and-spend liberal, Bonoff’s record is one of fiscal restraint, and she has said she would advocate reduced spending in Congress. Like many Republicans do, she opposes automatic inflationary increases and favors performance-based budgeting. She has proposed innovative solutions to the disconnect between the job market and higher education, and on health care she favors sensible solutions like drug-price negotiations and ways to broaden the individual market pool that could bring down costs.

Paulsen has said he favors a nuanced, bipartisan fix on health care, which could make him a needed voice of reason in a Republican caucus that is fixated on just a wholesale repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He has worked with Democrats on a number of bipartisan bills and last year led the House on legislation to target human trafficking, working jointly with Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The Twin Cities until recently ranked among the top cities in the country for sex trafficking of underage victims. Paulsen called the bill one the most satisfying and meaningful efforts he’s undertaken. This year he followed up with a bill that helps find missing children by allowing law enforcement to access tax returns. That was a common-sense measure already permitted in the investigation of federal crimes or to locate fugitives — but not missing children.

Given his standing, Minnesotans should expect to see more leadership from Paulsen on a broader array of issues in the next Congress.