Democratic candidates flipped a pair of Minnesota congressional seats with heavy medical device industry constituencies in the mid-term elections yesterday.
Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) defeated incumbent Erik Paulsen, a longtime supporter of the North Star State’s huge medtech cluster who led numerous attempts to repeal the medical device tax. The 48-year-old liquor heir carried Minnesota’s Third District by 56% to 44%, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, marking the first time since 1961 that the district is represented by a Democrat. Paulsen won the seat by 14 points in 2016 and by 25 points in 2014.
Medtech veteran Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), who spent 10 years with St. Jude Medical as an HR exec and also held positions with Smith & Nephew (NYSE:SNN), won her challenge to right-wing talk show host and incumbent Jason Lewis in the Second District race, by 53% to 47%. The duo ran a very close race in 2016, with Lewis winning by less than two points.
In the race to represent Minnesota in the Upper Chamber, incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) cruised to an easy 60%-to-36% win over Republican challenger Jim Newberger; Legal Marijuana Now party candidate Dennis Schuller pulled in 3% of the vote, with Green Party candidate Paula Overby capturing 1%.
And Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), appointed to replace Al Franken after his resignation over sexual improprieties, beat the GOP’s candidate for junior senator, Karin Housley, by 53% to 42%, according to the newspaper.
Medical Alley president Shaye Mandle told MassDevice.com that the local medtech community is sorry to see Paulsen go.
“Losing Erik from the House is certainly a blow. Not only was he a great champion for the industry and the community, but over the years has developed a real understanding and expertise on the industry and was a resource for colleagues around the country,” Mandle told us during a phone interview today. “That foundational knowledge – and the ability to share it with colleagues – is incredibly difficult to replace.”
That said, Phillips’ experience should augur well for the Third District, which home to more medical device companies than any other district in the country, he added.
“Obviously, our expectation is that Dean Phillips, coming from a business background, will get to know the industry and advocate as aggressively as Erik did,” Mandle said.
Although Lewis was ” a great advocate” for the industry and will be missed, Craig’s history in medtech – she was on the board at the trade association when Mandle joined it in 2011, he said – can only be asset.
“Angie is one of those people who now we’ll also look to be a resource for colleagues in Congress, to understand the particular interests and challenges that medtech and healthcare companies face,” he told us. “Both Tina and Amy, we’ve had long relationships with them. They’ve been very supportive.”
With five of Minnesota’s eight House seats going to new members for the 116th Congress, Mandle noted, “from our perspective, it’s an opportunity to educate five new House members on the importance of healthtech in Minnesota.”