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Democratic Recruit Challenges Minnesota's Erik Paulsen

Tollefson is challenging Paulsen, above. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former U.S. diplomat Jon Tollefson announced a challenge to Minnesota 3rd District Rep. Erik Paulsen on Thursday.  

“I’m running to bring the true values of Minnesotans to Washington: real fiscal responsibility, investments in education and transportation that lead to jobs and economic growth, and affordable access to health care for all," the Democrat said in a statement.  

Tollefson has been weighing a congressional bid for "a couple months," campaign spokesman Roman Levit said. "We’re just starting to gear up, working with folks locally in Minnesota as well as the DCCC." Tollefson entered the Foreign Service in his early 20s and he later served as a public diplomacy officer in the State Department. A Minnesota native, he returned several years ago, where he's been working in government affairs for the Minnesota Nurses Association.  

Paulsen, first elected in 2008 by 8 points, has gone on to widen his victory margins, winning by 24 points in 2014. The Republican ended the final quarter of 2015 with more than $2 million in the bank.  

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has tried to target this district since President Barack Obama carried it twice — albeit by only 1 point in 2012.  

"Especially if the Republican presidential nominee is Donald Trump, that would spell down-ticket disaster," a national Democrat said. Without a Senate or gubernatorial race in Minnesota this cycle, "it’s not that far physically down-ballot," the Democrat added.  

Contact Pathé at  simonepathe@rollcall.com  and follow her on Twitter at  @sfpathe . Related: Democrats Might Roll the Dice Hoping Trump or Cruz Is on Ballot Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.