Charter Schooling Politics

Interesting political test for charter schools unfolding in MN. The state’s Fifth Congressional District seat has been long been held by the well-regarded Martin Sabo (D) who recently announced his retirement setting of a frenzy for the Democratic nomination. That’s because the seat is pretty safely Democratic so whomever snags the nomination is likely going to Washington.

There is a crowded Democratic field but after the early fundraising totals were announced, after only about a month of campaigning, two candidates have basically emerged as front runners. Keith Ellison, an African-American attorney and state legislator from Minneapolis who captured the endorsement of the local DFL and former state senator Ember Reichgott Junge, well known as a champion of women’s issues and also of public charter schools — she wrote the nation’s first charter school law, a winner of the Harvard Innovations in American Government Award. Ember’s something of a surprise since she’s been away from politics for a little while. She raised enough money fast to surprise some analysts of MN politics with her strong showing in a crowded field that includes Sabo’s former chief of staff. Interestingly, charter school supporters, especially in MN but also nationally, are proving a key source of her support and some observers think that grateful parents will play a role in the race at the polls.

Privately some charter school supporting Democrats have complained that while “atta boys” are nice, hard campaign cash is even better in the rough and tumble world of politics. That’s why it’s worth keeping an eye on MN, are charter school supporters finally stepping up to the plate in a big way? Disc–I’m not just an observer, I’m also a $ contributor to Ember’s campaign, I’ve known and worked with her for years.

Also, related is that Andy Smarick (R), author of this blog and a staffer at the National Alliance For Public Charter Schools is running for the state legislature in MD. Worth watching as he gave a very stiff challenge to a longtime incumbent 4 years ago despite being outspent 12-1. He’s a smart guy and knows the charter issue inside out. And, in NH, maverick Democratic charter school supporter Peter Sullivan is making a bid for the U.S. Congress. Charter politics in both those states are contentious (much more than MN) so keep an eye on how the issue plays out…

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