Friday, October 19, 2007

Terri Bonoff: "uniting the middle" in the Third?

Terri Bonoff (photo: Minnesota Senate)This week in the Sun Sailor newspaper (article not posted online yet), my Minnetonka neighbor, state Senator Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), announced her candidacy for the DFL endorsement for U.S. Congress in the west suburban Minnesota Third District. The puff piece, perfectly coordinated with an endorsement in the letters-to-the-editor section, neatly laid out Bonoff's winning strategy for 2008, which is cut from pretty much the same cloth as her two successful campaigns for the Minnesota Senate.

If Bonoff wins the DFL endorsement, look for campaign themes like Uniting the Middle, pragmatic, bipartisan, education, health care, multimodal transportation (read: light rail). Independent expenditures will be aggressive in more ways than one: Democrats are salivating at the chance to win the Third for the first time in forty-eight years, and Bonoff has proven fundraising ability. If past campaigns are any indication, Bonoff will wisely take the high road against her opponent, while independent party, 527, and PAC money will go on no-holds-barred attack.

Many independent voters will be looking for a candidate in the mode of retiring Representative Jim Ramstad, that is, not too conservative, but not too liberal. Bonoff may look for unconventional endorsements that would appeal to independents and left-leaning Republicans; for example: the surprise 2006 endorsement of Bonoff by the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce over the Republican candidate Judy Johnson. (Bonoff won the TwinWest endorsement despite my friend Johnson's long-time support of TwinWest as city councilperson and mayor, and despite TwinWest ironically hiring Johnson after the election as their Director of Community Relations.)

One helpful endorsement already in hand came in August, when Bonoff was named a "Friend of Education," along with liberal Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville), by the Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD), which lobbies for more money from the state for metro-area school districts.

If the Republicans endorse a male candidate, sexism will be a major factor in the campaign: not the candidates' sexism, the voters' sexism. Given the chance to elect a woman, any woman, to office, party-independent, marginally political, and center-right female voters will contract a sudden mass case of Estrogen Blindness, and reflexively line up behind their sister without a serious analysis of the candidates' other differences. The reasoning goes like, "Men (like Ramstad?) have made such a mess of things, it's time to give a woman a chance."

Wendy Wilde's unsuccessful challenge to Ramstad in 2006 used the theme "ELECT MOM" in an attempt to recast Wilde from liberal talk radio host (scary) to briefcase-toting soccer mom. Bonoff needs no such extreme makeover. With her business experience, public school advocacy, and just-like-you charm, she is perfectly cast to appeal to women across the Third.

In an alternate universe, "Mirror Mirror" scenario, the Democrat Bonoff could quite possibly mount a "stay-the-course" campaign — she already compared herself to the Republican Ramstad in the Sun Sailor article — while her Republican opponent mounts a "time for change" campaign, without mentioning The Rammer by name. If Republicans don't offer a positive, bold, conservative vision to contrast with Bonoff, they could find themselves triangulated right out of the Third District seat.

1 comment:

lloydletta said...

If Bonoff gets elected, 4 out of the 10 members of the Minnesota delegation will be female.

I think the biggest challenge for Paulsen is to brush up on his communication skills. He is not an effective speaker. He's got time to work on that - with the help of a coach. This has NOTHING to do with his ideology.

Bonoff isn't the best speaker, but she's more effective than Paulsen.