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Is Minnesota ready to feel the Shern?

Photo by Peter Sherno
Tim Sherno’s argument is that both Rep. Eric Paulsen and Terri Bonoff are products of the same money-equals-access system built and maintained to serve the interests of the wealthy.

Surveys of American attitudes toward “the media” regularly place professional journalists down around with the likes of pedophiles, toe fungus and Congress. It’s not a good place to be, unless you’re at the State Fair and the same people couldn’t be more excited to sit on uncomfortable bleachers for hours just to watch journalists do their thing.

But we live in an age where name and face recognition counts for something, enough that one former local anchor/reporter, Tim Sherno, 55, is attempting to commodify himself into votes for Congress in Minnesota’s Third District.

An Edina resident, Sherno — formerly a morning anchor at FOX 9, a reporter with KSTP-­TV and a consultant with Frank N. Magid Associates — is jousting with the twin windmills of incumbent Republican Eric Paulsen and his DFL opponent Terri Bonoff.

Conventional wisdom says that even in the age of The Donald, the race is Paulsen’s to lose, with Bonoff providing arguably the most serious competition he’s had since first being elected in 2009. Sherno’s argument is that both are products of the same money-equals-access system built and maintained to serve the interests of the wealthy. (I know, this is news to you.)

Before disgorging a torrent of numbers culled from his dive into Paulsen and Bonoff FEC filings (e.g. Paulsen once dropped $2,213 at a DC restaurant), Sherno emphasizes that his campaign is committed to neither accepting or spending … anything. He vows that he alone will not be taking cash via big-ticket players like the state’s medical device manufacturers or Democratic PACs like EMILY’s List. Sherno’s campaign is staffed by … himself, with video tech support from his son. As he says, “I shave the face of my campaign manager every morning.”

Getting the inevitable Don Quixote reference out of the way, Sherno says: “Well, whether he was crazy or passionate is something we can discuss. But the way I look at it, a life without passion should be called something else.”

Pause … silence on other end of phone line.

“You like that? That’s pretty good, isn’t it?”

I’m not sure a disclaimer is necessary, but Sherno is a media personality I’ve known for quite a while. The difference being that he alone calls — out of the blue/when he needs some “earned media” — offering to commiserate with “your lovely child-bride” for having to put up with a guy (me) “so often found by the police disheveled, wandering the streets in robe and slippers, flashlight in hand. Although for the life of me I still don’t know why you need a flashlight in the middle of the day.” 

Hilarious as he’s certain he is, Sherno gets points for throwing himself into this Quixotic adventures. And, implausibility of victory aside, he makes some interesting points on the confluence of money, politics and name/face recognition in a TV culture. Like, for example, how the Supreme Court decision Citizens United “is a major problem,” and his insistence that “seven out of ten people I meet door knocking know who I am.”

Frankly, I didn’t ask for the scientific bona fides on that, but 70 percent wouldn’t surprise me. The effect of a dozen-­plus years on local TV is that at least as many people will recall your name (or face) as they are able to ID their current congressman.

Sherno says he’s putting in long hours door-­knocking from the somewhat upper­-middle-class neighborhoods of Eden Prairie “up 169 all the way to Coon Rapids.” That landscape, of course, includes some of the swankiest ‘hoods in the state, places where his populist vow to “turn the most fortunate among us” upside down and shake more tax money out of their pockets probably isn’t greeted with enthusiasm. Just guessing there, of course.

From his FEC research on money flow, for another example, he notes that a certain “Edward Bastian” of Duluth, Georgia is listed as a contributor Bonoff’s campaign, and an “Ed” Bastian, likewise of Duluth, Georgia has contributed to Paulsen’s reelection bid as well. Now, there may be another Ed Bastian living under the radar in that pleasant Atlanta suburb, but the best known Ed Bastian is the CEO of Delta Airlines. His covering all bases with a few thousand disposable dollars emphasizes Sherno’s point that neither Paulsen or Bonoff is capable of playing outside the country’s monied-­up political system. 

“Neither of them is going to challenge the other over the way business is done, because they’re caught up in the same thing,” says Sherno. “For one to attack the other would be like Barbie attacking Ken for being too perfect.” (Coming from a former TV guy, I can see how he went to a metaphor on homogenized plastic glamour, but he might want to fine tune that one a bit.) 

Sherno’s strategy for gaining traction in the Third District race depends on a very 2016 mix of social media — like the videos up on his Facebook page — “earned media” (like this) and citizen exhaustion with, you guessed it, “politics as usual.”

He hopes that attention will pick up soon. “Unfortunately news coverage has gone dark at the moment because of the State Fair. But after Labor Day I think we can convince enough people that this guy [i.e. him] isn’t a fly-­by-­night candidate and isn’t a crackpot.”

If enough do, the GOP and DFL might/could possibly consent to putting him on the debate stage with the two main acts, and who knows what happens after that? “If they were to base [debate eligibility] on name recognition, I’d clear the bar easily.” 

Out of respect for Sherno’s delicate ego (he was a TV personality) I didn’t go all “snowball in hell” on him. Because, as everyone knows, “The Donald Effect” is the great wildcard of down-ballot races in 2016. I doubt the Bonoff campaign will disagree that Paulsen’s on­going struggle to find just the right distance between disavowing Trump and not alienating Trump’s hard core voters creates a target­-rich environment for everyone outside the GOP.

“I’m not naive about my chances,” Sherno says. “But there’s this perception that the Third District is all Edina and Lake Minnetonka and Wayzata, just the most fortunate. But do you know what the average household income of the District is?”

Uh, I don’t know.

“Sixty-eight thousand dollars,” says Sherno. “And that’s a number driven higher by some astonishing income figures in the parts you’re talking about. Point being, there are plenty of people like me looking at candidates like Paulsen and Bonoff and saying, ‘Who paid for that and what are they going to get in return for it?’”

Ok. Ok. But what did we learn from Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000?

“Well, what I say to that is this: If there’s just two in the race you pick. If there’s three you have a choice.”

Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 08/30/2016 - 11:33 am.

    Policy positions?

    OK, the guy doesn’t like money in politics. Many of us don’t, but the Supreme Court created the current free for all. More importantly, what does he stand for other than “none of the above.” Did I miss something, or did the article provide no description of what he stands for, and how that is different from the two major party options. For many of us who want to reject Trump and the party that spawned him, Bonoff is a great option. Why is he any better? While he many not be a money man, his whole image – or brand – is a marketing creation by a big company. From that, I would expect him to be more oriented to the positions of big business that the citizen. If that is unfair, an indepth article would be helpful.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 08/30/2016 - 11:53 am.

      I looked at his website

      He’s got “new ideas.”

      • Submitted by Tim Sherno on 09/04/2016 - 09:48 pm.

        New Idea… sans ( ” “‘s

        Yea, I do. And I’ll tell you two things about my ideas… I think they’re pretty spot-on, but I’m open to hear and learn where they may not be.

      • Submitted by Tim Sherno on 09/04/2016 - 10:15 pm.

        …I’ll borrow from “Citzen Cane”

        …and see if I can get the “quotes” off the new ideas. I mean, I think they’re new, but hey! You never know, someone could have thought some of this stuff up before me, of course. And I’m not saying my ideas are the gold standard of ideas, but I think ideas work as a ticket to get into the discussion. Love my ideas, shoot ’em down, that’s ok. I’ll defend them vigorously but I’m also fine with letting go and switching tracks to someone else’s idea if it’s better. I got into this because I want to try to help and, frankly, I haven’t heard any new ideas outta Washington in a while so I brought my own and hope they’ll get me into the discussion. (a) Taxes. I tell this to the folks I meet door knocking and they (very nearly all of them) have agreed… someone isn’t paying enough in taxes. (Annual deficit = proof) When there’s a deficit, that’s part of our tax bill it’s just that someone is putting our share of it on a credit card and it’s gotta stop. Look, I’ve heard it for 30 years, “I’m gonna: (choose one) right-size government, shrink government, run government like a business, cut waste, find inefficiencies… (talk about “new ideas.”) The fact is, in 30 I don’t think it’s worked once. Now, I am trying to run an unrelentingly positive campaign so I’ll simply say this, of the three candidates in the 3rd district -I’m the only one willing to raise revenue as PART of the solution. And by raise revenue I mean look to our most fortunate neighbors’ contribution as PART of a possible solution. I wrote a book, and it’s all detailed in there. (“Reason: But It Could Have Been Called Optimism.” ibooks and Amazon.) The short version, we look for ways to put financial fuel back into the great engine of the American economy: middle class spending… but it’s important that we do so without causes additional debt. What would be the point of THAT? My plan has two variables and adjusts based on the tax payer’s income (we’re talking HIGH HIGH HIGH income) and the general health of the economy. The variables adjust based on budgetary need and variations in income. (the two variables would be set based on things like averaged income above a certain level AND some formula made up of key economic indicators… or something like that.) I call it a reintegration strategy. The point being (whew… the redbull must’a kicked in, sorry) we look for ways to put money back into the middle class spending economy without creating debt. So, there… that’s a nutshell of a much larger ideas. Love it. Hate it. Discuss it among yourselves. It’s a new idea… I mean, at least I think it is. I kind’a like it, but it’s just an idea. -anyway, thanks for reading this far. (are you still there?) (you are! oh! ok great. thanks.)

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 08/30/2016 - 12:30 pm.

      He’s just the 3rd District’s Trump

      A man who knows exactly what the problems are, can whine about them like everyone else, but has no solutions.

      • Submitted by Tim Sherno on 09/04/2016 - 10:29 pm.

        I have no solutions, only ideas FOR solutions.

        I’m trying NOT to be that guy… and let me say this, I”m trying to run an unrelentingly positive campaign but I do have to set myself apart from my opponents. I’m the only candidate in this race willing to consider revenue as part of our deficit/debt dilemma. (Is dilemma strong enough a word?) When I door knock I get GREAT response from folks, they’re ok with revenue being part of the solution… and they tell me, specifically on the very most fortunate. I have this idea I call a reintegration strategy and it works like this. We draw some income line at a very VERY high level. Income beyond that would be subject to reintegration based on two variables; the level of income (based in part, maybe, on averaged income) and the general health of the economy (based on a few economic indicators.) The rate of (you may call it taxation, I’d call it reintegration) anyway, the rate would vary. So if someone had an amazingly awesome fantastic year, and the economy (in general) sucked, the someone’s reintegration rate would be higher (to help keep maintain some economic vitality.) If someone had a below average year (but they just made enough to be within that new high high threshold) and the economy ROCKED that year (yup!) smaller reintegration. It has two variables built in, and when it comes to variables it’s always good to have more. (Actually, I don’t know that to be a fact, but it sounded like math.) I hope this shows, at least, I’m trying. I’m tired of people who whine about problems but don’t do anything; they’re called politicians. -anyway- thanks for reading this far…

    • Submitted by Tim Sherno on 09/04/2016 - 09:44 pm.

      Policy Positions!

      First, thanks for saying my ‘brand’ was created by a big company. I’m currently sitting at my kitchen table with that ‘company,’ namely me and my 17 year old son. (Granted he IS a talented photographer.) Everything on that website was made by me. (website: I make no claim to a perfect campaign… I just don’t. I’m new to this, but I’m giving it all I have. So I apologize if details have been hard to come by… I’ll try to fix that. As for responding this part has been the toughest for me because I’m trying to run an unrelentingly positive campaign -bringing up points of disagreement with the other candidates makes me a little uncomfortable. That said. There are three people in this race and from what I have been able to learn/read/observe (..for example the first debate) I am the only candidate who says we need to look at revenue* as part of our solution to the debt. Look, I get it, government spends too much. Ok. Sure. But here’s the thing, we’ve been told for 30 years that (insert name of candidate) is going to (a) right-size government (b) shrink government (c) cut waste (d) run government like a business… or my personal favorite cut taxes to raise revenue… and you know what… after 30 years I’m guessing it ain’t gonna happen. (not that we can’t keep trying…) (we should always try to be as efficient as possible) but at dawn, the cold light of the fiscal reality breaks -and we go deeper and deeper into debt. (mixed metaphors or something there… sorry) So… I think we look at revenue… and I think we look to our most fortunate neighbors… from here, I give my fingers a rest. Pretty sure I’m boring you. My tax ideas are in my book, “Reason; But It Could Have Been Called Optimism.” –ibooks and amazon. Or if you’d like to hear more shoot me an email at (whew) *revenue SPECIFICALLY from our most fortunate neighbors.

  2. Submitted by Lyn Crosby on 08/30/2016 - 12:34 pm.

    what district?

    Curious enough to check out his web site a week ago; the obvious info (what district he’s running in/for) was difficult to find. You’d think that might be important.

    • Submitted by Tim Sherno on 09/04/2016 - 10:32 pm.

      District distraction…

      I should have been more clear… I’m not a politician. It’s the 3rd district. Basically the west metro, like the letter “C” surrounding the western most parts (and parts just west) of Minneapolis. Thanks for visiting my website.

  3. Submitted by Roy Everson on 08/30/2016 - 01:29 pm.

    Slow news day

    “But what did we learn from Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000?”

    Last time I checked the DFL platform favors overturning Citizens United while many conservatives say the more (non-union) money in politics the merrier. So, when the results come in at whatsisname 3%, Bonoff 48, Paulsen 49, we’ll have learned that it’s a gas to have friends giving you that “earned” media. At least Nader had cred.

  4. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 08/30/2016 - 01:50 pm.

    No, he’s totally fly-by-night

    Sherno didn’t even round up signatures to get his name on the ballot, for cripes’ sake. So not only is he an independent running with no money in what is shaping up to be an expensive House race in a district that may not be overly favorable to his message, he’s a WRITE-IN independent running with no money in what is shaping up to be an expensive House race in a district that may not be overly favorable to his message

    • Submitted by Tim Sherno on 09/04/2016 - 11:00 pm.

      Hard to round of signatures…

      …when you’re not in the race when they’re due. (May-31st.) I’m a late entry, I get it. I have no money (by choice) and I’m a write it (ouch!) I have been door knocking (so far) in Plymouth, Bloomington, Maple Grove, Brooklyn Park, Eden Prairie, Edina, Mound and Coon Rapids… so let me share what I’ve gleaned from my visits… I’m sitting atop a tinder-dry pile of voter dissatisfaction. Folks are angry and the up-ticket stuff is just adding to it, they’re frustrated because nothing gets done and they’re in a mood to prescribe a dose of accountability, and they don’t think someone is paying enough in taxes. Me? I’m just tossing lit matches… so see if this fire lights. It may not. I’m cool with that. But it might. You never know. And I would have agreed with you regarding the reception I expected my message would encounter… but that’s not the case. I’m telling you dissatisfaction. Big. Like, really big. Thanks for reading.

      • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 09/06/2016 - 10:22 am.

        That’s the problem, though

        Voter dissatisfaction didn’t just appear after May 31st. Jumping in as a write-in candidate in August for Congressional seat is just folly. Even if you’ve got the diagnosis of the problem correct (and I think you’re more right than not on that point), what does it tell me about your judgment that this is how you’re trying to fix it?

  5. Submitted by Mike Downing on 08/30/2016 - 02:24 pm.

    Level the playing field

    Citizens United was simply leveling the playing field with unions. Unions have been giving 99% of their political donations to Democrats without approval by union members. Citizens United created some equality…

  6. Submitted by Alice Gibson on 08/31/2016 - 08:37 am.

    Just another self-infatuated dilettante

    …determined to be this year’s Ralph Nader. Let’s hope the electorate is smart enough to give him 0.0% of their vote.

    • Submitted by Tim Sherno on 09/04/2016 - 11:15 pm.

      Dear Alice,

      I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to convince you that I’m not as you described. And you know what? I can see why you’d say that. For some working in local-tv news is enough to be convicted on charges of misdemeanor ego self-inflation. That said: Have you visited my website? I would humbly ask that you not consider me by my cover (or coverage for that matter) instead evaluate me on my ideas. If you don’t like them either, fair’nuff. Just trying. I hope to get the chance to dispel your opinion of me. -thanks for reading,

      • Submitted by Tim Sherno on 09/05/2016 - 12:12 pm.

        …type OH!

        late night… small type… tired eyes. website is (the other date wouldn’t work so good.)

      • Submitted by Tim Sherno on 09/06/2016 - 07:14 am.

        …type OH!

        just saw this… it was a late night… small type… tired eyes. website is (the other date wouldn’t work so good.)

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/31/2016 - 02:12 pm.


    We know several in depth analysis that Gore lost more democrat votes to Bush than he did Nader. Please let’s stop trying to the fact that democrats lose because they run weak candidates of someone else all the time. If Gore had called for a state wide recount instead of a partial recount he’d gotten into the White House. That’s not Nader’s fault.

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