Students grill Madia on Russia, Georgia, baseball… and dating

Ashwin Madia went back to his old school this morning. The 3rd District DFL congressional candidate took questions from students at Osseo Senior High School in a wide-ranging forum.

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Due to technical problems I wasn’t able to record the very first question — it was just a softball about why he joined the Marines. But here’s the rest of the half-hour Q&A:

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(The moderator is Bill Bauman, who teaches world history and government at Osseo. He said he has invited Republican Erik Paulsen and Independence Party candidate David Dillon come talk with students, too.)

Questions covered a number of topics Madia has addressed publicly before, like his position the Iraq war and renewable energy. But they also pinned him down on some new topics, including:

Opening diplomatic relations with Cuba in Iran: He says we should do it. “It’s a whole heck of a lot better and a whole heck of a lot cheaper than going to war over a disagreement.”

The conflict between Russia and Georgia: Madia said the U.S. needs to make sure Russia “lives up to its commitments that it signed under the ceasefire.” But he said Georgia isn’t just an innocent victim, either: “I don’t think it’s as simple as blaming one side or the other…. Our government’s been blaming Russia quite a bit in this thing, abut I think both sides sort of share some blame, Georgia and Russia.”

A $5,000 tax credit for higher education proposed by DFL U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken: Madia supports it. Madia also released details today on a $21 billion-a-year plan to put more money into No Child Left Behind and special education. He plans to pay for it without a tax increase by shifting funds away from other programs, including education earmarks and federal subsidies for private student loans.

Students also had some softer questions.

Politicians he most admires: Bill Clinton and U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., the extremely popular congressman whose seat he hopes to win for the Democrats.

Red Sox or Twins: Even though Madia was born in Boston, he chose correctly. “No contest,” he said. “Twins.”

Is he single? Yes. “When you’re campaigning, you don’t get a chance to date all that much.”

But the most revealing question was: “What’s your favorite Osseo Senior High memory?”

Madia, who came out of nowhere to beat a better-known candidate for the DFL endorsement this spring, explained he moved to the Osseo school district during his junior year. He didn’t know anybody and the election for student government was held a mere two weeks into the semester.

“I just went all out and started campaigning,” Madia said. “No one’s ever heard of me before. We put posters up all over the school, and I just tried to meet as many people as I could.”

Madia hopes this election is as successful as that one was.

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