CHANHASSEN, Minn. (KMSP) - Congressman Erik Paulsen met with voters in the Third Congressional District face-to-face in a town hall setting for the first time in years Wednesday.
"There’s a lot of people who would like to say something to him, share their opinions, ask questions," said a constituent outside the meeting in Hamel, Minnesota.
It’s been about six years since the congressman has hosted a town hall meeting, a decision he defends.
"I had a couple people a few weeks ago, saying ‘Don't do these type of town hall meetings because I don't feel like I can come and express my views,’ but I understand people want to be able to have this type of venue or format as well," said Rep. Paulsen. "You’ve got to make sure people have their voice and can express themselves without being obnoxious or rude to each other."
The congressman hosted three meetings throughout his district Wednesday with attendees picked at random after registering online.
"There are several thousand constituents in this district and Erik Paulsen has chosen to hold three small town halls in very small locations during the middle of the business day,” said Katie Simons of Eden Prairie. “I don’t call that accessible."
Paulsen points to his open office hours and the many telephone forums he has hosted. He claims those formats reach more people and are more productive than holding a typical town hall.
Since the 2016 elections, politicians, especially Republicans, have been criticized for avoiding town hall meetings.
"As we've seen around the country people come in who don't live in your district and they shout each other down,” said Rep. Paulsen. “Thankfully, here in Minnesota, we still have the civil component which we want to maintain."
Despite tensions outside the meeting locations, inside the discussion was relatively civil. The most frequent questions focused on gun control, as constituents pressed Paulsen on Congress’ lack of action.
Rep. Paulsen has gone longer without holding a town hall than any other Minnesota representative. Fox 9 checked around and found there are several representatives who don't have any planned this year.
Rep. Jason Lewis recently hosted his first town hall meeting since being elected in 2016.
Rep. Collin Peterson has not held a town hall this year. His last town hall was in April 2017 in Moorhead, MN. He has no upcoming public forums scheduled, but his staff says he meets with constituents often.
Rep. Keith Ellison holds community meetings frequently. These town halls often have a theme, like his most recent one earlier this month which was about how government works.
Rep. Rick Nolan doesn’t have any town halls planned for this year. His last community forum was in October 2017.
Rep. Tim Walz has held five town halls this legislative calendar year.
Rep. Betty McCollum doesn’t have any town halls scheduled later this year. Her last one was in February 2018.
A spokesperson from Rep. Tom Emmer’s office did not respond to our request for comment.