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« Byrd Fights For Seat | Blog Home Page | NC Dem Race Tight »

Surprise Winner In MN

In a move sure to add further confusion to one of Democrats' top House targets this year, local delegates of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party over the weekend backed lawyer and Iraq War veteran Ashwin Madia over State Senator Terri Bonoff in the race to replace retiring Republican Jim Ramstad in Minnesota's Third Congressional District. Madia will face State Rep. Erik Paulsen, a highly-touted Republican recruit, in November.

State Party conventions choose nominees, though candidates not chosen by the party can also petition their way onto a primary ballot. Bonoff stood before the Third District convention this weekend and asked delegates to endorse rival Madia, saying she would not run in a primary and appealing for party unity, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Ramstad is leaving the district, based around the northern, western and southern suburbs of Minneapolis, at the end of the year, and both parties were enthusiastic about their early front-runners, Paulsen and Bonoff. The Democratic state senator had raised an impressive $472,000 through the end of March, compared with just $166,000 through December for Madia, but conventions take wooing a committed group of supporters, and Madia was able to out-organize the veteran.

Many saw parallels in the race to that between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, with an older, experienced woman losing to the impressive rhetorical skills of a younger man. Party convention delegates were selected at precinct caucuses on Super Tuesday, in February, and Obama won the state overwhelmingly, likely giving a boost to more liberal precinct delegates who backed Madia.

Though national Democrats had recruited Bonoff for the race, their hopes are not completely dashed at her loss. In 2006, liberal anti-war activist Carol Shea Porter bested then-State House Democratic Leader Jim Craig in the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley, in New Hampshire. Though the DCCC pulled out of the district, Shea Porter won in November anyway. Wisconsin Rep. Steve Kagen was not his party's number one choice to attack an open seat held by Republicans, but he, too, won a seat in Congress.

Madia will face a tough race against Paulsen, who ended 2007 having raised $389,000 and spending an incredibly frugal $25,000, to keep $363,000 in the bank. Madia told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he expects the race to cost about $3 million per candidate. No Democrat has represented the seat in more than two generations, but like many suburbs, voters there are getting more used to casting ballots for Democratic candidates. President Bush won by just three points in 2004, down from a four-point margin in 2000.