Sen. Terri Bonoff declares upcoming run for US Congress

Chair of the Senate’s higher education committee, Bonoff will leave after this session.

by Kevin Beckman

After more than a decade of representing Minnesota’s 44th Senate District, Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, will leave the state Legislature this year to run for U.S. Congress. 
Bonoff, who has chaired the Senate’s Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee since 2013, announced in late April that she will leave the Legislature after the current session to run for Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District seat, which has been held by Republican Erik Paulsen since 2009. 
The 3rd Congressional District includes parts of the Twin Cities’ northern and western suburbs, such as Brooklyn Park, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and Bloomington. 
A self-described moderate, Bonoff said she’s been concerned by the divisive rhetoric coming from the current Republican presidential candidates. 
“Rather than watch this play out on TV, I have decided to jump into this fray and do all I can to transform the current conversation,” Bonoff said. “My brand is not about partisanship and it’s not about politics.” 
Bonoff said she will be campaigning on her ability to “unite the middle,” and include comprehensive and diverse perspectives on issues. 
Republican and DFL colleagues alike have lauded Bonoff for her inclusivity and ability to reach across the aisle to pass legislation. 
“She’s very inclusive,” said Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, vice chair of the Senate’s higher education committee. “She’s very open about discussing issues and very bipartisan on how she approaches [them].” 
Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, said although he supports Paulsen, he has appreciated the work Bonoff has done in the higher education committee. 
“She reached across the aisle and in fact was one of the only Democrats to talk about teacher licensure, and I thought that was kind of a bold stand on her part,” Pratt said. 
Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, who has worked with Bonoff in the higher education committee, said Bonoff consistently sets aside partisanship to pass initiatives aimed at bettering the state’s higher education system.
“She brings us together and builds agreement around what it is we’re trying to accomplish through our policies and our funding for higher education,” Sheran said. “She strives to bring us together around a vision or a goal for higher education, one that we share regardless of our political affiliations.” 
Bonoff has used her experience as a business executive to forge partnerships between the private and public sectors, including her chief authorship of Minnesota’s Private Investment, Public Education, Labor and Industry Experience (PIPELINE) project, an apprenticeship and vocational training program that helps public school students connect with private employers. 
“She recognized need in our state for getting more people into the job market,” Clausen said. “But at the same time, she recognized that we have some real needs in terms of the tuition costs for students.”
Bonoff said she is also proud of work she’s done in helping close Minnesota’s opportunity gap in early education. 
“We really looked at what we can do to bring more teachers of color into our schools with the biggest gaps and what we could do to bring the best and brightest teachers into our schools,” Bonoff said.  
Several state lawmakers and officials have announced their support of Bonoff, including DFL Chair Ken Martin. 
“[Bonoff] is willing to fight for Minnesotans and we couldn’t be more proud to support her,” Martin said in a statement. “For too long, families in the 3rd Congressional District have had to watch Erik Paulsen put the extremist base of his party ahead of the families who elected him.” 
Sheran said she admires Bonoff for taking on the task of chairing both the higher education and K-12 education committees in the senate. 
“In the time that she’s been here … she has been given a lot of significant responsibility to chair two critical education committees,” Sheran said. “She has taken the [committees] and used them to advance legislation that helps us achieve the objectives we want to accomplish.”