Having done the math, Edina Mayor Jim Hovland is suspending his DFL campaign for the Third Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad.

"I've been looking at the delegate numbers, and I couldn't see in the long run that I was going to make it," Hovland said Thursday. "It just wasn't in the cards for me."

In an e-mail that formally announced his decision, Hovland wrote: "I continue to stand by my pledge to support the candidate endorsed by the Third District Convention in April. However, in the event that no endorsement takes place at that convention, I plan to reevaluate my options at that time."

The race in the suburban district is the only one in Minnesota without an incumbent and is seen as one of the most wide open in the nation.

Although Ramstad, a nine-term Republican, has long cruised to easy victories, the district's demographics have changed to make it more competitive, a point he made when he announced his retirement.

2 DFLers remain

Hovland's decision leaves two other DFLers vying for the party's endorsement, state Sen. Terri Bonoff and political newcomer Ashwin Madia.

After informally running for several months, Hovland was the last DFLer to enter the race, in January. He switched from the GOP to the DFL last fall, saying the party had shifted away from his values, particularly on social issues.

He doesn't plan on endorsing either of the remaining DFLers; "we should let the process work itself out," he said.

During the first two rounds of Senate district conventions, the DFL race has emerged as a competitive one. Madia, a veteran of the Iraq war, has claimed 49.5 of the 95 delegates needed to win endorsement. Bonoff, a former business executive, has claimed 46 delegates.

Hovland claimed none but had been counting on a good showing Saturday, when his Senate district convention will be held along with four others.

Once he concluded that even a strong showing Saturday wouldn't be enough, Hovland said he decided he needed to give a heads-up to "lots of loyal people in Edina who would go to the convention planning to support me ... Now, they can go [to the convention], enjoy themselves and not worry about me. At the end of the day, they weren't going to be enough to make a difference."

The DFL endorsement will be decided at the party's congressional district convention on April 12.

On the Republican side, state Rep. Erik Paulsen of Eden Prairie is the only candidate.

Each of the remaining DFLers was quick to issue e-mails praising Hovland. Madia called him "a good friend and a strong voice for our progressive values." Bonoff called him "an excellent public servant and a great asset to the people of Edina."

For his part, Hovland said the campaign had been "a real cordial, high-road sort of a campaign."

As for his future political plans, Hovland said he plans to remain a DFLer, but isn't sure when -- or if -- he'll run for another office. "I have to let this settle down first," he said. "I've got to think things through."

Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184