Snatching ridicule from the jaws of defeat

Rae Hart Anderson, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the Minnesota state senate, got her 15-minutes of fame in the blogosphere this weekend. The reason? A rambling and poorly punctuated concession email in which she urged incumbent State Senator Satveer Chaudhary (DFL-Fridley), who is a Hindu, to convert to Christianity. "Pay attention...this is very important, Satveer," Anderson wrote. "Have you noticed Jesus for some moment in time, yet??"

Talk about your tee-ball. After WCCO published the email, pundits of all stripes-and from all area codes--jumped on the story. "Jesus freak 'concedes' to Hindu winner," blared the headline at the political blog, Wonkette, which went on to characterize Anderson as "loopy" and declared her email "insane." Over at Time magazine's Daily Dish, conservative Andrew Sullivan struck a somewhat incredulous tone, writing: "And some Republicans are wondering why they lost. The denial continues." (In the insult to injury department, Sullivan managed to misidentify Anderson's gender--no doubt, a bitter affront to the traditional values fetishist in her).

By Sunday, Anderson was even getting slapped around in pages of her hometown paper. ("Another Christian culture warrior forgets how to make Minnesota Nice)." In addition to recounting the particulars of the email, Strib columnist Nick Coleman made passing reference to one of Chaudhary's previous scrapes with Small Tent Republicans--an incident in which State Senator Bill Belanger (R-Bloomington) asked that Chaudhary be removed from the senate chambers for the offense of wearing a Nehru coat instead of the traditional jacket and tie. The gambit did not pay off, but--in a not-so-proud moment for both the party and the institution--it was debated on the floor.

For his part, Chaudhary says Anderson's sermon-by-email was just one of several strange behaviors his opponent exhibited over the course of the campaign. "At one of the debates, she held up a picture of Elvis wearing a lab coat with one of those Dr. Seuss cat-in-the-hat hats. She made some reference to Halloween but we were all very confused by it," Chaudhary recalls. "I still don't know what the connection was to the campaign."

Chaudhary says he didn't respond to Anderson's email. "Perhaps I should have said Lord Krishna died for you," he offers. "But why bother getting into it after such a walloping victory?"

Anderson, who received 36 percent of the vote, did not return City Pages calls for comment.

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