Democratic state Sen. Terri Bonoff, vying to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), has won over much of the party establishment, has won the support of many female voters throughout the district, and was once considered the heavy favorite to win the nomination.
Her 30-year-old opponent, Ashwin Madia, a political novice, has captured the enthusiasm of local Democratic activists for his biography and his inspiring rhetoric in speeches.
Sound familiar? In many ways, the Democratic fight between Bonoff and Madia is a mirror image of the Democratic presidential battle between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. (Though it’s important to note that Bonoff is an Obama supporter.)
Most states select their congressional nominees through primaries, where candidates with the most name identification and best fundraising ability are best-positioned to prevail.
But in Minnesota, the state also holds nominating conventions prior to their primaries, where party activists endorse their favored nominee — and where passion often trumps establishment support. Both Bonoff and Madia have agreed to abide by the party endorsement instead of allowing primary voters to determine the nomination.
That dynamic is upending the conventional wisdom on who will win the nomination. Bonoff, a small-business owner, emerged as the early Democratic front-runner because of her prolific fundraising, success in winning a Republican-leaning constituency, and ability to earn support from the business community in a general election.
Indeed, Bonoff has won over the majority of the “superdelegates” — elected Democratic officials from within the district.
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