Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ashwin Madia

For the House of Representatives

from Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District

by Charlie Leck

The 3rd Congressional District in Minnesota is rich, Republican territory. It’s a tough place for a Democrat to run for Congress. Two good, progressive candidates worked their way to the fore this year and it was difficult to choose one over the other.

Little things make the difference in such a decision. I was sitting at my desk one afternoon in early March. The phone rang. I was reading a mighty fine book and didn’t feel like picking up the call; however, I slid the book aside and reached out and grabbed the receiver and punched the talk button.

“Yup,” I said.

“Hello,” came back the reply in a thin, elevated, crisp tone. “I’m Ashwin Madia and I’m running for Congress in your district. Have you time to chat?”

I’d just been reading about Madia the night before. He sounded like an intriguing guy. Everything said I should be supporting Terry Bonhoff, another announced candidate, because she had worked her way up and proved her party loyalty and had stripes she’d earned. My question was about her toughness and her ability to sway some Republicans over to her side. It’ll take that in order for a Democrat to win. I know this district really well. I know the people. I play golf with many of them and listen to them in the bar afterwards. They’re nowhere near being progressives. Most of them are far to the right of John McCain.  Some of them are right of Genghis Khan.

Ashwin Madia sounded bright to me in our little conversation. He also sounded tough – like a fighter who didn’t like to lose. He also seemed to have a bit of a silver tongue. Bonhoff kind of rages and shouts.

“You’ve got me,” I told him. “I’ll support you.”

I’d never done that before, but this kid was convincing. Arrived in America, from India, as just a wee lad and settled with his parents in the middle class suburb of Plymouth. He likes to explain that his parents had 19 bucks in cash “and a dream that America would provide opportunities for their children.”

I wanted to pop his bubble a little bit and ask how much they had in stocks and bonds. It seemed a bit brash and not very funny.

He graduated from one of the suburban high schools and went to the University of Minnesota and then on to law school at New York University. He did a stint in the U.S. Marines. Now he’s practicing law. I often wonder when lawyers stop practicing and start doing it for real.

“How much?”

“How much what?”

“How much are you going to support me?”

We settled on a number –half  now and the other half if he gets the nomination. It’s more than I usually give, but he sounds like a winner.

A few days later I heard him rev up a crowd. He cranked them up pretty good. The place was loaded with kids in their early twenties. They controlled the place and he had them hooked pretty good.

He finally worked his way over to my table and said hello.

“Thanks for the support.”

“You can’t win out here, you know!”

He winked at me and flashed a smile as wide as his face – a good, white, flamboyant, strong smile.

“Double up if I do?”

I stood quietly. He’d called my bluff. I thought he just might pull it off, so I kept my mouth closed.

His eyes sparkled at me. He knew we’d play a game of chicken and he had won it! This could be a guy to watch. Keep your eyes on him.

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