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Madia takes a gamble and heads to Denver

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Madia on stage
Minnesota Congressional candidate Ashwin was seen but not heard on stage at the Democratic National Convention in Denver today. He was there with seven candidates in what Democrats see as highly competitive races around the country.
MPR photo/Curtis Gilbert

Ashwin Madia got his moment on stage at the Democratic National Convention today. He didn't get to say anything. Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen,

He was there with seven other candidates from around the country. Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, did the talking.

Madia's race has been identified as one of the most competitive in the country, because it's for an open seat. 

Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad, who has represented the Minneapolis suburbs since 1991, is retiring. Republican candidate Erik Paulsen is fighting to keep the seat in GOP hands. And businessman David Dillon is running under the Independence Party banner.

Madia admits it was a tough call to travel out of state with only about 10 weeks left in the campaign.

"It's always a decision, whenever you decide to leave the district, but we've got a really tight and packed schedule while we're out here. We're going to be really busy. And the reason we're using it is to communicate our message to a large group of people," said Madia.

People all over the country can't vote for Madia. But they can give him something else he needs. California Congressman Mike Honda, who was one of Madia's earliest supporters, made the pitch for Madia at an event focused on Asian Americans in politics.

"The good news is: He's got all the money that he needs, but it's in your pocket still, and it's in your wallet. So, using the internet, talk to your friends, and send it on out," said Honda.

Then Madia got up to seal the deal, saying he's positioned to add a seat to the Democratic House majority.

Ashwin Madia
Ashwin Madia addressing the Minnesota DNC delegation on Tuesday morning.
MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert

"It's a 50-50 district. It's one of the top ten races in the whole country right now, mostly likely to flip from Republican to Democrat," Madia told the crowd. "We've raised about $1.5 million, so far. I haven't taken a dime of corporate PAC money this entire time.  We've been doing it brick by brick, inch by inch. The poll numbers look good. We've got a great field operation. We've got great mentors. We've got the best volunteers in the entire country."

Madia wouldn't say how much he hopes to raise in Denver, but he acknowledged he is here to collect some checks.

"It is true. Unfortunately, fundraising is a pretty big part of running for office, and so of course we're out here. We're talking to people. We're doing something really special in Minnesota to get this country back on track again, and if people support what we're doing then I'd be honored to have their support in this race," said Madia.

Madia addressed Minnesota's DNC delegation this morning. Then he participated in an event with other veterans running for office. Yesterday he met privately with Democratic strategist and Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel.

Passing through one of the press tents here at the Pepsi Center, Emmanuel sung Madia's praises.

"He's really an inspiring candidate in the sense of his work ethic, his attitude, and he represents, I think, what's best about America," said Emanuel.

And Emanuel summed up in six seconds why both Democrats and Republicans are paying so much attention to the race in Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District.

"It's a top race. It's an open seat in a suburban district, with two formidable candidates with formidable resources," explained Emanuel.

Madia and his Republican opponent Paulsen have each raised more than a million dollars -- more than any other non-incumbent Congressional candidates in Minnesota. At last report they were both among the top Congressional fundraisers in the country. They have to release updated financial reports by the end of this week.

The Democrats running against Republican Congressman John Kline and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann decided to skip the convention. Representatives for both campaigns said their candidates' time in better spent in Minnesota. They have also each raised a fraction of the money Madia has.