Friday, June 08, 2012

Bonoff and Gaither to woo swing voters

Sen. Terri Bonoff (Source: Minnesota Legislature)
Tuesday's town hall meeting at Plymouth City Hall hosted by Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) was a Legislative session recap event for constituents, not a re-election campaign event. Still, a few likely campaign themes emerged during the senator's amicable 90-minute conversation with twenty or so of her constituents.

Senator Bonoff has been building her brand as a non-partisan, "moderate" legislator. Some Republican candidates in this area have done the same. Bonoff touts a bipartisan style at the Capitol. She even included a photo of herself with the popular retiring Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) on the 2012 Legislative Report flyer that was distributed at the meeting. Her last campaign signs omitted the DFL label, and some of her constituents are still surprised to learn that she's a DFLer.

With victories in a special election and two general elections so far, she must be doing something right. But are Bonoff's Plymouth and Minnetonka constituents getting what they voted for?

Despite the nonpartisan branding, Bonoff was elected Assistant Minority Leader by the Senate DFL caucus. She is responsible for ensuring that Senate DFLers vote in concert to advance the DFL party's and Governor Mark Dayton's agendas (read: Vikings stadium). It is by definition a partisan role.

After voter ID legislation carried by former Minnesota Secretary of State and current Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) was passed, then vetoed by Gov. Dayton, the Legislature sent a voter ID amendment to the Minnesota Constitution directly to the voters. With her DFL partisans in the Minnesota Senate, House, and Gov. Dayton, Sen. Bonoff opposes the ballot question, in spite of polls that show 80% of Minnesotans have consistently supported the idea since 2006.

Terri Bonoff was one of the top bundlers for Barack Obama in 2008.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, "Bundlers are people with friends in high places who, after bumping against personal contribution limits, turn to those friends, associates, and, well, anyone who's willing to give, and deliver the checks to the candidate in one big 'bundle.'" The center's web site lists over 500 bundlers for President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, only five of whom are from Minnesota. Terri Bonoff is one of them.

Republicans who hope to unseat Bonoff with their endorsed candidate, Sen. Bonoff's SD43 predecessor David Gaither, will not impress swing voters in this district by attacking the incumbent with overheated direct mail attack pieces. On the flip side, Occupy-style rhetoric will also suffer a cool response from the folks who eschew At Issue and Almanac: At the Capitol for brunch at The Original Pancake House or a burger at The Muni. Voters in this west metro district, where the women are strong and the school districts are all above average, will respond to the candidate who clearly presents the better plan to solve local problems and improve the statewide economy.

As I greeted Plymouth City Council member Tim Bildsoe after the Bonoff meeting, he said, "I guess this is the start of the season for you." So it is. Grad parties and weddings will soon make way for door knocking, campaign lit dropping, parade walking, sign pounding, candidate debates, and shifts at the get-out-the-vote phone bank. And blogging. See you on the trail.