Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen and his DFL opponent Jim Meffert met for their third and final debate of the Third District race on Wednesday, where they discussed health care, financial regulation and attack ads.

The pair was joined by independent candidate Jon Oleson for the 30-minute lunch/forum, which was hosted by the Edina Chamber of Commerce at the Interlachen Country Club.

Chamber president Arrie Larsen Manti prohibited any recordings during the event, which cost $35 for non-members to attend.

Larsen Manti said the ban on recordings was a decision of the Chamber and neither campaign requested it. Why do it? They did not discuss media recordings at the original planning meetings this summer, she said, and she did not have time to inform her members when the media requests did come in.

“This is a membership organization at a private club,” Larsen Manti said. “And for me to not have the time to inform my members that there may be media here, it’s just not professional. It’s inappropriate.”

Note: The ban applied to all recordings – television, radio, tape recorders. It was the only debate of the election season that carried such restrictions.

Hot Dish tagged along to hear the candidates spar for the last time before Election Day.

The sharpest blows came from Meffert, a non-profit director and lobbyist who has been the subject of three Paulsen TV attack ads. Meffert hasn’t had the resources to respond, but took Paulsen to task for waging a largely negative campaign.

“My kids can’t watch TV right now because all they see is people tearing each other apart and people lying about their opponents,” Meffert said. “That’s why we haven’t run that kind of a campaign. We could be up on TV doing that same thing, but we’re not.”

Meffert has so far raised about $460,000 for his campaign, with about $110,000 left in the bank. He repeated his message about changing the political discourse during his opening and closing remarks.

Oleson said he is running because of "political bickering. I'm really concerned on behalf of my nine grandchildren that we need to resolve that." 

On financial regulation, Paulsen, a freshman Republican, said the 2010 financial reform legislation added too many compliance hurdles for community banks and didn’t do enough to fix the residential loan market. He had one other complaint:

“There’s also nothing in the bill that would address eliminating the moral hazard to stop the ‘too big to fail mentality’ for large corporations that get bailed out,” Paulsen said.

Meffert spoke favorably of the bill, but said more needs to be done.

"We have to do something to recreate some stability, to draw those lines of distinction between consumer and venture capital and mortgage banking and insurance to create some of that transparency that we lost with deregulation." 

When asked whether the health care bill should be repealed, Paulsen said the legislation did not do enough to lower costs but did not directly address whether he wants to repeal it. He has introduced a bill that would repeal the medical device tax, but Paulsen is the only Minnesota Republican who has not signed the pledge.

Meffert said the bill, which he supports, is a “work in progress.”

“We’ve been trying to fix this health care system for a century,” Meffert said. “It’s not easy. If we had done it sooner, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Meffert also offered praise for the stimulus for offering a tax cut for the middle class, providing money for teachers and other public employees, and investing in infrastructure projects.

“Those are good things that we need to figure out how to build on,” Meffert said.

Paulsen said the stimulus did not adequately stimulate private-sector job growth.

Oleson noted he is the only candidate in the race without an allegiance to a major party.

"I really question whether Cognress is a democracy now," Oleson said. "We end up having leaders that are basically telling the members how to vote one way or another."

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