In the 2008 election cycle, one of the most exciting progressive candidates to emerge was Ashwin Madia up in Minnesota. Ashwin, an Iraq War veteran, came out of nowhere to win the endorsement of the state's Democratic Farm Labor Party and become the party's nomination in MN-03, a suburb of the Twin Cities. With the retirement of Republican Jim Ramstad and a Cook partisan index of R+1, both parties dumped major resources into the contest. Unfortunately, after some dirty campaign tactics from his opponent Republican Erik Paulsen, Ashwin came up short.
The lost was tough as many progressive Asian Americans saw Ashwin as one of the rising stars and the potential leader of a new generation of progressive elected officials. We at APAP were so excited about him that we actually placed one of our paid fellows on his campaign. Reading his bio from his facebook page, you can see why we were so excited:
As student body president at the University of Minnesota, Ashwin worked to keep higher education accessible to all by controlling increases in tuition and fees. After graduating from the U, Ash graduated from New York University Law School.
After law school, Ashwin joined the U.S. Marine Corps and moved to Quantico, Virginia for eight months of basic training. His first duty station was Okinawa, Japan, where he served as a prosecutor, defense counsel, and legal advisor to a Marine Corps commander.
Ashwin served in Iraq from September 2005 to March 2006. While stationed in Baghdad, he worked with Iraqi judicial officers, U.S. military and civilian officials, and representatives of the European Union and United Nations to strengthen the Iraqi criminal justice system. He also briefed top U.S. generals on the status of the rule of law in the country. Ashwin finished active duty with the Marine Corps on July 4, 2006. He returned to Minnesota and began practicing law at a local firm.
Just as his parents dreamed that it would, America has provided Ashwin with many opportunities. He now hopes to draw on his record of leadership, service, and advocacy to represent the 3rd District in the U.S. Congress. Ashwin is running to end the war in Iraq responsibly, balance the budget, address global warming, expand access to health care, renew the federal commitment to education, and safeguard our constitutional liberties.
Anyway, it's been almost ten months since then and we wanted to catch up with Ashwin. We sent him the following questions that he was kind enough to answer.
What's been happening since your campaign ended?
I took a few months to thank supporters, try to place some of my campaign workers, and most of all, think about the race and analyze my mistakes. To me, it's only a failure if I don't learn from it. If I learn from it, and become a stronger, better, smarter, and tougher candidate as a result, then it's a learning experience. I started my law practice in May of this year, specializing in consumer fraud. I represent individuals against banks, insurance companies, debt collectors, and other companies that try to take advantage of consumers. Since May, I've been working hard to build my firm.
What were the greatest lessons you learned, both personally and politically?
Politically, I learned the importance of message discipline. My commercials talked about my background, the green economy, Wall Street, and balancing the budget. My opponent had one very strong message - no new taxes. I think he did a better job of getting his message across in some part because it was a simple and consistent message. Next time, I'll be more disciplined. Personally, I was struck by the decency and kindness of people across Minnesota and our country. I was amazed at how many good, decent people wanted to help make our country a better place and were willing to make real sacrifices in order to do so. I am more optimistic and hopeful today about the future of our country than the day I started my campaign, mainly because of the exceptional people I've met over the past two years.
What was the worst part about running?
I was frustrated by the main means of communication - TV commercials. It's hard to communicate nuance and complexity in 30 second ads to a broad audience. I don't believe issues are simple - I think both sides have some good ideas and the right answer is probably somewhere in the middle of two extremes. However, you just don't have time to go over all of that in a 30 second ad, so instead, you settle for what you can get across effectively in the medium. I didn't like that part of campaigning.
What was the best?
The great people I got to meet. Easily. For an entire year, I had the opportunity to speak to people all over Minnesota and our country about the way ahead for our nation. I met some of the most decent people I've ever met in my life - people who will always be friends. I feel privileged to have had that opportunity.
If you had to do it all over ago, would you?
In a heartbeat.
And if so, what would you do different?
I would have increased my campaign's message discipline and focused on a central theme during the general election instead of trying to discuss a multitude of issues. Also, I would have responded much more aggressively to the attacks against me.
Do you plan to run for office again?
Yes. I really feel as though I have something to contribute to our country and I'm not a quitter. However, I want to build something else first. I want to work on my law firm, represent Minnesota's consumers against powerful interests, win some battles, and then come back to public life.
As you can guess, we're very happy with answers. If and when Ashwin decides to run again, you can bet our organization will be just as supportive and we encourage everyone to keep an eye on him and any future campaign he decides to mount.