Bachmann race gets most attention, but challenge to 3rd District’s Paulsen starting to percolate, too

While DFLers are jumping into — and out of — the 6th Congressional District race to take a shot at defeating U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, all has been surprisingly quiet on the western suburban front, the 3rd District.

To date, not a single DFLer has announced intentions to run against Rep. Erik Paulsen, the first-term congressman who has proved to be far more conservative than his predecessor, Jim Ramstad, the consummate moderate in what most believe is a moderate district.

But at least one prominent DFLer, state Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka, is contemplating getting into the race.

After close battle last time, Bonoff ponders another try
“I’m giving it a lot of thought,” said Bonoff, who lost a closely contested endorsement battle to political newcomer Ashwin Madia last year. Madia went on to lose to Paulsen by 7 points in the general election, with the Independence Party’s David Dillon picking up 11 percent of the vote.

Bonoff had the support of most DFL regulars going into the endorsement convention last year. But Madia did a masterful job of bringing new delegates into the endorsing convention and pulled off the upset.

State Sen. Terri Bonoff
State Sen. Terri Bonoff

If she decides to run, Bonoff said that this time, “I’m going all the way.” That means she will not again pledge to abide by party endorsement and will enter a primary if DFLers endorse someone else.

The DFL silence in the 3rd is in marked contrast to the 6th, where there were three substantial pols who had announced intentions to run — until Tuesday, when El Tinklenberg announced he was dropping out of the race and would not repeat his 2008 campaign against Bachmann. That still leaves state Sen. Tarryl Clark and Dr. Maureen Reed battling to end up on the ballot against Bachmann. Clark has pledged to abide by endorsement. Reed, who ran as an Independence Party candidate for lieutenant governor in 2006, would seem to have an uphill struggle to gain endorsement but might be able to do well in a DFL primary if she can also gain IP endorsement.

Bonoff believes that no one has announced in the 3rd because what happened in the last election “was so painful.”

“We had high hopes of ending up with the seat,” Bonoff said of the seat that has been held by Republicans since 1961.

Paulsen conservative and low-profile
Like Bachmann, Paulsen votes conservative. But unlike his colleague, he keeps a low profile.

Rep. Erik Paulsen
Rep. Erik Paulsen

Bonoff said calling Paulsen “vulnerable would be too strong of a word. But he is beatable.”

Her dilemma is that if she would get into the race and head for a primary, she would have to give up her state Senate seat, meaning she could find herself on the outside of politics looking in.

“I’m a competitive person,” Bonoff said. “I wouldn’t have gotten into that (congressional) race if I didn’t want the job. I want to do that job. But I’m also concerned about the issues we have to deal with at the state level”

Bonoff, a political moderate, has differed from many in her own party, arguing that state government needs major reform, not simply more revenue in the form of increased taxes.

She also led the fight to get Minnesota primaries moved from September to June. In compromise mode, she accepted language in an elections bill that would have moved the primaries to August, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Bonoff said she believes that the Legislature may move quickly to send the governor a stand-alone primary bill early next session that would move the primary to August in time for the next election cycle. The current September primary date is seen as giving more weight to the endorsement process because there is little time for a candidate to wage a primary fight and then recover and raise funds for a general election campaign.

Bonoff said she’ll make a decision on her plans “in the next couple of months.”

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Luke Hosfield on 08/05/2009 - 01:26 pm.

    As a voter in the 3rd district I am encouraged by this news. If the DFL stays out the district an independent party candidate might actually have a shot at winning.

  2. Submitted by Bruce Anderson on 08/05/2009 - 03:43 pm.

    I agree Luke.

    I’m sick of liberals (and conservatives) acting like centrists during elections and taking IP votes.

  3. Submitted by Bruce Anderson on 08/05/2009 - 03:52 pm.


    David Dillon of the Independence Party has not ruled out another run. He is being encouraged to run by many people outside of the IP.

  4. Submitted by Bill Krause on 08/06/2009 - 04:53 pm.


    Let’s hope he can build on the 10% that he pulled. Maybe get it up to 12%.

    Go David!!!!

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