Former MSA president vies for Congress

Ashwin Madia, 29, announced his intent to represent the 3rd District.

by Anthony Carranza

Ashwin Madia, former Minnesota Student Association president who frequented Sally’s on Wednesdays and enjoyed Annie’s malts eight years ago, fought to keep tuition costs low.

Today, the University political science graduate is ready to fight in Congress for what he called the right things. Madia announced his candidacy Oct. 23.

But first, Madia will vie for the 3rd Congressional District’s DFL endorsement, and he believes his chances are good.

“I am running for three reasons: I want to end the war in Iraq, balance the federal budget and address the issue of global warming,” Madia said. “I am from the district and I love it. I think I would be a great advocate in Washington.”

Madia faces a stiff challenge. His competition comes from within his own party, as well as the Republican candidate, both of whom already serve as state legislators.

Of the three candidates hoping to represent the area west of Minneapolis, Madia, 29, is the youngest to run for office.

And unlike Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, and Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Eden Prairie, Madia served in the U.S. Marines for four years, including from September 2005 until March 2006, when he was stationed in Iraq. His stint in the military, Madia said, is part of the reason he’s seeking to make changes.

“I know the situation on the ground, since I was there,” Madia said. “The solutions to Iraq can only be found politically and not militarily.”

Madia said his father has been his biggest role model, having taught him the importance of doing the right thing and working hard.

Madia’s sister, Surbhi Madia Barber, also a University graduate, said his brother first talked about running last month.

“Ever since we were little kids, we all knew this day would come and Ashwin would want to make a difference,” she said. “He is doing it for the right reasons and is not the sort of person to sit back; he wants to take action.”

Barber said at family dinners, politics were the discussion and her brother always was calm and collected – no matter the subject.

As for the likelihood of her brother’s political dream becoming a reality? A likely result, Barber said.

“To make lasting differences in this nation we need strong, honest and good-hearted people genuinely who can make a difference,” Barber said.

Current MSA officers said they weren’t aware one of their predecessors was running for office, but MSA Vice President Ross Skattum said it’s nice to see a former MSA officer taking that step.

He also said the valuable lessons Madia learned through MSA can be applied to the nation as a whole.

“Being at MSA you learn a lot on dealing with issues that affect students and also be in the position to change those issues,” he said.

MSA President Emma Olson agreed with Skattum, and also said Madia’s young age can bring a new perspective.

Additionally, she said MSA can be a springboard for political futures of its members, since its structure mirrors that of the larger government.

One of Madia’s friends, U.S. Marine Capt. Juan Brown, met Madia in Okinawa, Japan, and saw him work as an attorney.

“I have seen him perform and no matter the job he is giving you can bet he will be devoted to it,” Brown said.

But still, other candidates and voters debate whether that kind of experience can translate into legislative success. Bonoff, who Madia will face for the DFL endorsement, said policy-making experience is unique and indispensable.

She said anyone can participate and run for election in a democratic society, but the wisdom that comes from experience is necessary to the position for which the candidates are campaigning.