Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pendulum swings, Bonoff wins

Terri Bonoff defeated Judy Johnson by 9 percentage points in the Senate District 43 special election. Bonoff swept all of the Minnetonka precincts and the single Medicine Lake precinct, and took six Plymouth precincts from its own mayor.

Gay marriage advocates and Darwin protectionists are crowing over the win, citing the candidates' clear differences on, well, gay marriage and intelligent design.

The effectiveness of the DFL ground game should not be ignored, meaning simply they got more people to actually vote for their gal. In a low turnout election (20%), every vote counts: in one Minnetonka precinct, where 48 persons voted, Bonoff won by four votes, 26 to 22! In a Plymouth precinct, where 642 persons voted, Bonoff won by 16 votes. Bonoff is well-known and well-liked in Minnetonka, which gained her more than a few friends-of-Terri loyalty votes in those precincts.

If the too-close-for-comfort win in 2004 by HD 43B Rep. Ron Abrams (R-Minnetonka) was a surprise, and John Kerry's win in the district was a disappointment, SD 43 Republicans should consider the Bonoff win a wake-up call. Although Senator-elect Bonoff's seat will be up for reelection next year, with HD 43A Rep. Jeff Johnson (R-Plymouth) running for Attorney General, there will be another open seat in the district. With Bonoff's sweep in Minnetonka, Abrams has to be considered vulnerable. To prevent this DFL win from turning into a district-wide sea change, the SD 43 organization will have to reconnect with its base and grow its ranks with new, committed activists. They should expect to be in the DFL crosshairs for the forseeable future; the question is will they respond aggressively or like a deer in headlights? How will the Republican Party of Minnesota respond to the DFL resources from outside the district?

Johnson thanked a roomful of her supporters at Woody's Grille last night, saying she trusts that despite disagreements on some issues, she knows that Terri Bonoff will represent the district well. Feeling exhilarated by the frantic fire-drill campaign, and obviously disappointed by the outcome, Johnson thanked her tireless and still-enthusiastic grassroots supporters. "You're young," observed Senate minority leader Dick Day (R-Owatonna), alluding to Johnson's future political prospects as he praised her candidacy.

In the SD 19 special election, Republican Amy Koch won her Senate special election with 51% of the vote in a three-way race, with a voter turnout of only 13%.

UPDATE: More election coverage:


lloydletta said...

The Intelligent Design answer at the Chamber of Commerce debate was a self-inflicted wound by Judy Johnson.

Both candidates deserve kudos for running ethical, issue oriented campaigns.

Ron Abrams should work at getting reelected, but I don't think he's at risk of losing Minnetonka moderate republicans, who differ with the Republican party on the social issues. Ron Abrams is pro-choice on abortion which is consistent with that district. Abrams also voted against Intelligent Design creationism the last time the issue came up in the legislature.

If folks had left Martha Robertson alone, rather than organizing to take party endorsement from her 4 years ago, this wouldn't be becoming a blue district.

Matt said...

You've been propogating this view across the Internet that Judy "blew" the Intelligent Design question at the TwinWest forum. I disagree. The only thing she "blew" was your litmus test. Judy said that she was new to the ID debate, and that it should be left to local school boards to decide. ID opponents spun this response to Terri's political benefit -- good for them -- distracting voters during the lightning-quick campaign from issues where Terri has less expertise.

In 2002, Sen. Robertson's strong support of the Profile of Learning lost her the endorsement, in favor of David Gaither, who kept the seat in Republican control and went on to champion Second Amendment rights and public safety. In 2006, some other issue will rile up another group. There are also always factors outside the control of the candidates or their campaigns, such as wars, the economy, special sessions of the Legislature, and which way the wind is blowing.

I do agree that both campaigns were clean and issue-oriented, in spite of some funny business from the parties. Regardless of the DFL seeing SD 43 through "blue" colored glasses, or perhaps because of it, I don't think that conservatives in SD 43 will be missing in action in 2006. Winning is good, but a tough loss every now and then can have its salutary effects as well.