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For Paulsen-Phillips debate, the price of witnessing democracy is $60

Fittingly, the first debate between millionaire Dean Phillips and Trump acolyte Erik Paulsen will be a behind-closed-doors Chamber of Commerce affair with a $60 cover charge.

Fittingly, the first debate between millionaire Dean Phillips and Trump acolyte Erik Paulsen will be a behind-closed-doors Chamber of Commerce affair with a $60 cover charge. Grace Fleming

As a concerned citizen who has recently become involved in local politics, I am dismayed to hear that incumbent Congressman in District 3, Erik Paulsen, and his challenger, Democrat Dean Phillips, will be participating in the first debate of this election season at a luncheon, in a private venue with a $60 price tag attached on August 21.

This debate is hosted by the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce and will be moderated by KSTP’s Tom Hauser. A discounted cost of $35 is available to Chamber of Commerce members, which comes with a $400-$4,000 annual membership fee.

Political debates for any seat should be free and open to the public. An exclusive, private debate perpetuates the notion that civic engagement is only for the well-connected and wealthy.

This is not a new phenomenon. In fact, this occurred with Paulsen and Terri Bonoff in 2016. It solidifies the concept that the little guy doesn’t matter. As far as I can tell, there is no official effort by the Chamber or either campaign to record the debate and make it available for non-attendees to view.

Dean Phillips will be my choice when I vote on November 6. One of his big campaign issues is getting money out of politics. Participating in this debate flies in the face of that concept. My understanding is that Erik Paulsen, per his usual routine, is refusing to engage in a debate that is open to the public, which is poor behavior from a federal representative.

I encourage both candidates and both parties to work to make politics accessible for all. Voter turnout is a rampant problem across the United States, even in the high-turnout state of Minnesota. There is no wonder it’s that way when people can’t even see a candidate debate unless they pay $60 and take a half day off of work to go to a limited seating luncheon.

If we, collectively, want engaged, informed citizens, this is not the way to do it.

Rebekah Lauderdale Nelson, Bloomington