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Profile: The 3rd District Race
By Patty Marsicano
October 3, 2000
Part of MPR's coverage of Campaign 2000
Click for audio RealAudio 3.0

Third District Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad has held the seat for 10 years. But as he pursues his sixth term in office, three other candidates are asking citizens to vote for them instead.

THE THIRD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT contains a mix of Hennepin County suburbs like Burnsville, Brooklyn Center, and Minnetonka, which is home to incumbent Jim Ramstad.

Republican Jim Ramstad, 54, has represented the district since 1990. See more information on the candidates on our 3rd District page.
The 54-year-old Ramstad has represented the district since 1990. He's considered a moderate Republican. He supports legal abortion, environmental protection, and Medicare coverage for prescription drugs. He voted to repeal the so-called "marriage penalty," to normalize trade relations with China, and to impeach the president.

"I bring a balanced, pragmatic approach to governing," Ramstad says. "Those down here on the far right and the far left don't get anything done and being a centrist, being pragmatic is a big advantage in the legislative process and that's who I am and the way I work in a common sense way on legislation. I think that benefits Minnesotans much more than if I were an ideologue."

Ramstad, a recovering alcoholic, has pushed hard and very publicly with Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone for mandatory health insurance coverage for the treatment of chemical addictions.

Ramstad says he can accomplish more after 10 years in office because he's got the influence that comes with seniority - for instance, being the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Ramstad has won his last two elections with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Democratic challenger Sue Shuff of Wayzata says despite Republicans' dominance of the 3rd congressional district for 40 years, the district is more independent than people might think. She notes Jesse Ventura took the district in 1998 and President Clinton in '92 and '96.

The 54-year-old Shuff says there's a "leadership gap" in Congress that she'd like to help fill. She says despite all the talk about campaign-finance reform, nothing's being done.

Where the Twin Cities has spread to populate former farmland, you'll find Minnesota's 3rd District. This district takes in the suburbs of in Hennepin County, south and west of Minneapolis. Included is Brooklyn Park, a traditional DFL stronghold and home of Gov. Jesse Ventura. Also included is Bloomington, a portion of Edina (the rest is in the 5th district); Plymouth, and Wayzata, all traditional Republican ground.
Shuff is coordinator of a reading program at a Minneapolis elementary school, and would like to see more federal spending on education, including incentives for college students to become teachers.

"I went through school on loans and scholarships. I come from a very large family, I'm the oldest of seven and I really sort of took it upon myself to fund my own education and the loans, part of the loan situation was that I was in education and up to 50 percent of those loans could be forgiven if you taught in an urban setting or low socio-economic kind of setting and that is exactly what I did. That was a big incentive for me," Shuff says.

Shuff supports legal abortion, a waiting period at gun shows, and using the surplus to make Social Security solvent and modernize Medicare to include drug therapy.

A 27-year-old electrical engineer from Bloomington, will represent the Constitution Party in the 3rd congressional race. Arne Niska believes in a limited government, based on what he says are the narrow constructs of the U.S. Constitution. Niska would like to ban abortion, return the budget surplus to taxpayers, and end the federal role in education.

Niska says the founders based the Constitution on biblical principals. He supports eliminating the federal income tax on biblical grounds.

"The income tax, graduated income tax, violates at least two of the commandments right off the top: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's property and Thou shalt not steal. Essentially what the government's doing is holding us at gunpoint and telling us where we should give our money, and that's not right," he says.

Niska says the government could run on sales taxes and tariffs, and he would cut programs like welfare that he says should be left to churches and charities.

Bob Odden is running for 3rd District Congress as a Libertarian. Odden believes government robs people of the decisions they should make for themselves. Odden says the federal government shouldn't tell people to recycle, have safer sex, or tell children they should turn in their drug-using parents.

"I want people to be free as sovereign individuals, not as the government would have us, as dysfunctional children who must be guided and managed and cared for by an omnipotent government," Odden says.

Odden says the government does have certain, limited powers, related mostly to treaties, tariffs and national defense.

Odden believes drugs should be legal and opposes gun control, saying it has no effect on gun crime. He also says the U.S. should divest assets it has no business accumulating, like Social Security. He says he'd gradually phase Social Security out.

Odden is 50, works for an insurance firm, and lives in Columbia Heights.