MN-03 Analysis: why Our Brave Captain is winning


Yesterday the delegates across MN-03 sent a resounding statement that they prefer Ashwin Madia. He garnered 41.5 of 62.5 delegates available. If it weren’t for the superdelegates, mostly made up of Terri Bonoff’s colleagues at the state legislature, this race wouldn’t even be close. Ashwin even made it close in Terri’s home district (SD43) garnering 8 delegates to Terri’s 10. Remarkably, this was the only district that was close — Ashwin ran away with every other district.


Terri Bonoff has won 2 races in a district that has been Republican since just after the establishment of Fort Snelling. She beat the popular mayor of Plymouth twice almost within a year. She triumphed despite ugly, nasty Republican smear attacks. You’d think she’d do quite well.

Despite switching teams last fall, former Republican and now current Democratic Mayor of Edina, Jim Hovland, has staked himself to very progressive positions. With his connections, we all know that he’ll be able to pile up some seriously fat cash and draw independents and moderate Republicans away from the far right candidate Erik Paulsen. Yet Jim has been ignored by the delegates.

The reason is that Our Brave Captain has a powerful message that is combined with a superbly run grassroots campaign. If Ashwin just had his charisma to run on, delegates would compliment him, but support Terri because of all her endorsements.

Conversely, despite lining up all her endorse, Terri’s message isn’t resonating. While Our Brave Captain talks about returning to the ideals that make America great and that patriotism is not about a bumper sticker for your car but sacrificing for a greater good, Terri’s campaign sends this email out on Friday, March 7th:

This campaign is at a critical phase – we are just five short weeks away from choosing our DFL nominee to take on Erik Paulsen in November and turn the 3rd District blue for the first time in almost 50 years. We are all feeling the pressure, perhaps none more than the delegates, who represent in my view the very best of the political process in Minnesota and in our country. They have the all-important responsibility of testing and vetting our Democratic candidates and choosing who can best represent them and win.

I know there are delegates still struggling with this decision. All of the candidates in this endorsement battle believe they know best how to bring change to Washington and can serve this state honorably. As you’re making this decision I want to make sure you know who I am, why I got into this race and what I want to do as your next Congresswoman because I believe I am the best choice and I want your support.

I went to college at Clark University in Worcester MA, to study psychology and in my spare time you might be surprised to know I was the coxswain (the person who leads the boat and tells the rowers what to do) for the women’s rowing team. Imagine a 19-year-old on the bow of an 8-woman shell, megaphone in hand, shouting encouragement to my teammates on a cold fall morning on Boston Harbor. It was a job made for me – I would never have had to run for that office. The position I held on that prow sums me up well – leader, coaxer, cajoler – goal driven, trusted, knowing what is possible, and helping others to see it. I learned a great secret of politics on that boat: friendship and getting in a person’s face were not mutually exclusive.

This is a cute story. It is also trivial. Ashwin has made this campaign a campaign about ideals and Terri brings up anecdotes. How can “I was a coxswain” compete with “I am a Marine who served in Iraq”? Obviously it doesn’t.

I am being somewhat unfair in that in the remainder of the email Terri talks about her business successes and winning those two tough races, but the delegates are clearly seeing something substantial different between Ashwin and Terri.

Examples like this abound. At the SD42 debate at Eden Prairie city hall, Terri’s closing statement went like this:

Terri started well, but rather went off the rails towards the end of her two minutes on this issue. She began buy saying that we as a nation are ready to take bold action. She thinks that young people are leading the way. She told the story of her kids going out and buying new lightbulbs and replaced the old inefficient ones. After Ashwin’s brilliant call to action for a new kind of patriotism, she’s talking about light bulbs? I sensed the crowd was wondering where she was going with the light bulb story.
(MN-03: SD42 Debate in Eden Prairie)

I believe that Terri’s anecdotal, MN-Nice messaging simply cannot compete with Ashwin’s call for a renewed patriotism involving actually sacrificing for your country, his demand that we stand up for the ideals that makes our country great and his compelling personal story.