A dozen conservative activists, including state Rep. Cindy Pugh, showed up at U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen‘s Eden Prairie office Thursday morning in an effort to speak with the third-term GOP congressman about Obamacare and the federal government shutdown.
The protesters were upset at recent remarks by Paulsen indicating that he’d be willing to break with GOP leadership in the House to end the government shutdown.
“I think if I had the opportunity just to fully fund the government, I would do that,” Paulsen told KARE 11 on Tuesday. “I think there is a level of uncomfort among many of my colleagues that a government shutdown is not in anyone’s interest.”
Jake Coleman, Paulsen’s district outreach coordinator, greeted the group cordially. “Welcome everybody,” Coleman said. “Glad everybody could make it.”
The group was informed that Paulsen is in Washington, but that did not dissuade them.
“I’m stunned and in disbelief that he would bolt from his own leadership,” said Vince Beaudette, a Victoria resident. “Can you get him on the phone?”
Pugh, a GOP freshman from Chanhassen, echoed that request. “It is incumbent upon him to speak to us,” she said.
The gathering was prompted in part by GOP activist Sheila Kihne‘s previous effort to communicate with Paulsen about Obamacare and the shutdown. On Wednesday she visited the office and felt that she was treated rudely by another Paulsen staffer. At one point, Kihne said that the staffer took away her cell phone and insisted that she couldn’t tweet about the incident.
Coleman said that he “profusely apologized” for the altercation. “That’s completely unacceptable,” he said. “The congressman will be really furious when he hears that.”
Kihne was not placated. “We would like to speak to our congressman. We’re all constituents in his district.” Kihne said. “I will stay here until I can talk to him.”
While the group waited to see if they could get an audience with the congressman, Gary Heyer, a conservative activist from Chaska and 2012 delegate to the Republican National Convention, indicated support for a GOP challenger to Paulsen. “Oh hell yeah,” Heyer said. “He has consistently shown that he is not afraid of big money and big government.”
Kihne and a couple of other activists eventually got their wish. Shortly after noon they spoke to Paulsen on the phone. Kihne said she expressed her frustration that Paulsen might vote with House Democrats to end the shutdown and urged him to stand strong against Obamacare.
“He was very cordial, as he always is,” Kihne said afterwards. “He heard us. He understood our concerns.”
But Kihne has no idea if it will make any difference in how Paulsen acts going forward. “This whole thing is a mess,” she said. “We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”