CaringBridge founder steps down to challenge Kline

Mike Obermueller again runs for DFL endorsement in 2nd District


CaringBridge CEO Sona Mehring is stepping down from the Eagan nonprofit to run for Congress in the 2nd District. (File photo)
CaringBridge CEO Sona Mehring is stepping down from the Eagan nonprofit to run for Congress in the 2nd District. (File photo)

Sona Mehring, CEO of CaringBridge, is stepping down from the Eagan nonprofit to run for Congress in the 2nd District.

“CaringBridge is stronger than ever, so I feel the timing is right,” said Mehring, who is seeking the DFL endorsement. “I feel I can bring an innovative approach that is needed in Washington.”

The 51-year-old Eagan resident said she is confident she can defeat Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline, who has held his seat for more than 10 years.

“Kline is part of the stagnation in Washington,” she said. “His record is more conservative than (Michele) Bachmann.”

Mehring said she hopes to change that by taking a collaborative approach.

“We need to bring change to the culture in Washington,” she said. “We need to strengthen the middle class through innovation. As a business leader, that comes natural to me.”

Mehring, who supports the Affordable Care Act, said she believes her experience running CaringBridge has given her insight into balancing budgets and a understanding of the need for “progressive health care.”

“No law is perfect,” she said. “But it covers pre-existing conditions, kids are insured until age 26 and more people are able to be insured — those are important steps.”

Mehring, who is the mother of three adult sons, founded CaringBridge 16 years ago from her Eagan home. The organization provides websites that enable friends and family to share information on their loved one’s medical condition. What began as a side project, quickly took on a life of its own.

By 2002, Mehring decided to quit her consulting career to run CaringBridge full time as CEO. That same year, the organization was incorporated as a nonprofit.

CaringBridge Board chairwoman Janice Aune said she admires Mehring’s ability to found and run a successful organization.

“She has a unique skill set,” Aune said. “She’s built a very fine organization.”

Aune said she is sad to see Mehring leave but is confident CaringBridge can stay strong.

“I feel the organization is on a sound foundation,” she said. “I know our future is bright.”

In the year leading up to the election, Mehring said she plans to reach out to constituents in the district where she has lived for 30 years.

“I feel that I can relate to them more than a career politician,” Mehring said referring to Kline’s tenure.
Second chance

Mike Obermueller
Mike Obermueller

Before she can face Kline, Mehring must compete against Mike Obermueller for the DFL endorsement.

“I’m really excited about the chance to finish what I started,” said Obermueller, who challenged Kline in 2012.

Obermueller lost by 8.1 percent in one of the closest races against the GOP incumbent in several years.

Mehring and Obermueller said they look forward to engaging in the endorsement process.

“I wouldn’t second guess Mike’s campaign,” Mehring said. “But people are hungry for a new approach with innovative solutions and a fresh option.”

Obermueller said he welcomes the challenge but is primarily focused on beating Kline.

Like Mehring, the 39-year-old Eagan resident blames Kline and fellow Republicans for the gridlock in Washington.

Both candidates hope to focus on rebuilding the middle class, balancing the budget, protecting the Affordable Care Act and Medicare, and finding compromise.

The one-term former state representative added that he plans to focus on ensuring the district has “quality education.”

“I want to ensure everyone has an opportunity to achieve the American dream,” said the married father of two.

Mehring and Obermueller said they feel a Democratic challenger stands a chance to beat Kline in 2014 as the district continues to shift. The candidates noted that President Obama won the 2nd Congressional District in 2012.

In the race against Kline, Obermueller said he hopes to take his strategy further than what was possible in 2012.

“We built a positive momentum but sometimes it takes longer for people to get to know you,” he said.