Ashwin Madia

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(Note: I’m keeping this at the top of the main page until the caucuses start at 6:30 on February 5th. It’s that important. New material will appear below.)

Did you know that there are races other than the presidential primaries happening on February 5th? Really, it’s true! One of those races is the Minnesota 3rd Congressional District primary. The Democratic Farmer-Labor party nominating process encompasses multiple stages, but it begins on Tuesday, with precinct caucuses. These caucuses will both elect delegates to represent presidential candidates and ones to represent Congressional candidates. These delegates will then go on to the 3rd district convention, where the nomination will be decided. At least that’s my understanding of the process; if any Minnesotans want to set me straight, please do so.

So why should you care about a Congressional primary in Minnesota? For one thing, it’s an open seat; Rep. Jim Ramstad, a moderate Republican, is retiring, and there’s a good chance both for a Democratic pick-up and long-lasting Democratic control of the district. But more importantly, there’s a fantastic candidate running, and he needs your help.

His name is Ashwin Madia, and he’s a 29-year old attorney and Marine veteran. Despite his youth, he has hands-on foreign policy experience; he served in Iraq from September 2005 to March 2006, where he worked to strengthen the Iraqi criminal justice system in conjunction with the US military and government, the EU, the UN, and the Iraqi government. As a military defense counsel, he stood up for justice, becoming one of the few lawyers to successfully defend a gay serviceperson from “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” charges. He’s continued that commitment to civil rights on the campaign trail, calling for the legalization of gay marriage, a courageous position for a candidate in a swing district like the 3rd. More than that, he explicitly condemns politicians who only support civil unions, saying that “civil unions seem to be a way for politicians to avoid recognizing the LGBT community as equal with the rest of our society.”

Madia is a solid progressive. In addition to his stellar track record on LGBT issues, he is firmly committed to getting out of Iraq. He does support leaving a residual force of about 10,000 to 20,000 to serve as bodyguards for diplomatic officials, strike al-Qaeda forces, and prevent ethnic cleansing; his interest is in leaving Iraq in the best shape possible as we leave, not dominating it. He understands the critical role that Congress must play in ending the war; when one of his primary rivals stated in a debate that she didn’t think it was Congress’ place to act on Iraq, he responded with a forceful argument for stronger oversight and Congressional leadership. He supports tighter regulation on the mortgage industry to prevent meltdowns like the subprime crisis, and supports free trade with labor and environmental standards. He supports a cap-and-trade system out of both moral necessity and economic opportunity, and is a firm supporter of universal health care. And as a lawyer and veteran, he would fight for the restoration of our civil liberties and the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

Madia, however, faces a primary fight on Tuesday. He’s facing Edina Mayor James Hovland, who only switched from being a Republican a couple months ago, and State Sen. Terri Bonoff, a self-styled moderate (she was the one who didn’t feel Congress has a role in ending the war). Bonoff has institutional support and Hovland has a base, so Madia’s is an uphill battle.

But you can help. If you live outside of Minnesota, donate to his campaign by visiting his website here. If you do live in Minnesota, donate and volunteer; email the campaign at info@madiaforcongress.com, or call at (763) 544-3813. And if you live in the 3rd district (a town list can be found here), caucus at 6:30PM on Tuesday, February 5th. To find your caucus location, go here; if you won’t be able to caucus that night, send in an absentee letter for Madia. Instructions for that can be found here.

Wherever you live, you can support the Madia campaign. He doesn’t get the attention that, say, Donna Edwards (deservedly) gets, which is a damn shame, since he’s a great candidate, and would make one hell of a congressman. So give $20, or better yet a weekend, or best of all Tuesday evening, to help get Ashwin Madia elected to Congress. He needs us, and we need him.

P.S. Congratulations to Ashwin on winning the Teamsters endorsement! And thanks to the Teamsters for standing up for change.

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