A lifelong resident of Minnesota, Michael Brodkorb is an experienced communications, social media, public affairs & research consultant and is an observer of all things political. He also blogs at politics.mn. He lives in Eagan with his family.

Rhonda Sivarajah keeps on fighting until the last day

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb under 6th District, Politics Updated: August 12, 2014 - 12:29 PM

Two candidates running for Congress in the 6th Congressional District woke up today, but their campaigns are likely headed toward different outcomes.

Tom Emmer, the Republican endorsed candidate for Congress, is the heavy favorite to win today's primary in the 6th Congressional District. Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah is hoping to pull off an upset by winning the primary and defeating Emmer. 

Sivarajah won the endorsement of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, something she said "gave additional momentum to the campaign." Sivarajah added, "people who were maybe on the fence said 'wow, I had no idea about your record and accomplishments.'" 

Sivarajah is sometimes shy when it comes to talking about her accomplishments, a quality lacking in so many other politicians. Sivarajah's approach of putting her head "down and getting the work done" has produced results in Anoka County.

The editorial listed off a record of accomplishment any politician would want on their resume:

The County Board chairwoman’s list of accomplishments is impressive. Among them, she:

• Reduced debt by $30 million in the county, which has not borrowed in the past three years.

• Cut net property taxes by 10.5 percent over three years.

• Ended the county wheelage tax.

At the same time, Sivarajah pushed to find efficiencies to protect human services and to continue to invest in roads and bridges. One smart change: identifying a phone resource and referral service run by the county that duplicated some services offered by another well-known senior help line. Savings allowed the county to meet a need for short-term caseworkers to help seniors stay in their homes or to access care or other resources.

Early in Sivarajah’s County Board tenure, she also worked with faith-based organizations to shelter homeless families. At the time, skepticism abounded that the suburban county had homeless residents. The network of churches Sivarajah played a key role in organizing continues to provide this assistance today. Her work embodies the “compassionate conservatism” that many politicians talk about but few actually act on.

Politics is all about timing and Sivarajah's candidacy has been over shadowed by Emmer's return to the campaign trail. Politics loves an underdog and a comeback, but both Emmer and Sivarajah could wear either label this year. 

I spoke with a top Republican official in the 6th Congressional District, who is supporting Emmer, but said wonderful things about Sivarajah. He requested anonymity in this post, but said, "by running in the primary, Rhonda made Tom a better candidate, because she is such a strong candidate." He added, "Rhonda has a bright future and I would expect to see her on a larger platform very soon."      

Sivarajah said her approach to solving problems has brought "conservative Democrats and and independents to [the Republican] side." She's right, as any analysis shows Sivarajah's leadership has helped bring more Republicans to the Anoka County Board since she was first elected. Sivarajah is a fighter, but one that can win people over without taking a swing.     

When others would have thrown in the towel, Sivarajah never backed down from challenging Emmer in the 6th Congressional District primary. Based on her record, why would anyone ever think she wouldn't keep her word? While only one candidate will win the primary in the 6th Congressional District tonight, both Emmer and Sivarajah should be proud of what they accomplished. 

Picture source: Rhonda Sivarajah for Congress

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