The Minneapolis DFL paid $2,000 for a poll to see if Green Party City Council Member Cam Gordon would be vulnerable in November’s election, a move that’s irked progressives at City Hall.
The poll, conducted in the Second Ward last week, was commissioned by Minneapolis DFL Chair Dan McConnell without consulting the central committee. The potential candidate who would run against Gordon is McConnell’s wife, Becky Boland, secretary of the Minneapolis DFL.
The appearance of insider dealing on behalf of a spouse caused an uproar. And some DFLers argued the party should not spend time or money to replace Gordon, a reliably progressive member of the City Council.
“I am disappointed to hear that the head of our city DFL would prioritize that, especially without checking in,” said Council Member Lisa Bender.
“I don’t know that most Minneapolis DFLers would find any differences with Cam.”
Gordon is the lone non-DFLer on the Minneapolis City Council, but City Hall is often divided between more established DFLers and the party’s progressive wing. Council President Barb Johnson and Council Member Lisa Goodman, who have both been in office since 1998, can usually get the necessary seven votes for their initiatives. More progressive members such as Bender, Gordon, Andrew Johnson, Alondra Cano and Elizabeth Glidden often struggle to get to six.
Almost all of the people challenging City Council incumbents in the November election are running from the left.
To McConnell, however, the situation is simple: The Minneapolis DFL is there to elect DFL candidates.
“Cam Gordon doesn’t have a D behind him, he’s got a G,” McConnell said. “And that’s not my choice, that’s his choice.”
Boland said Wednesday she’s still considering running for Gordon’s seat.
“I need a little more time to think about whether it’s good for my family,” she said.
The poll showed that Gordon, first elected in 2005, is largely well-regarded in the ward, which includes the area around the University of Minnesota and parts of the Seward and Longfellow neighborhoods. One in three respondents said his biggest strength is that he listens and communicates well.
And he’s been steadfast in applying the principles of the national Democratic Party platform. He’s been a proponent of both a $15 minimum wage with no tip carve out and so-called fair scheduling rules.
“All of these things that Cam has been a leader on — and frankly other DFL-endorsed council members have voted against consistently — are the work that we theoretically believe in,” said Aisha Gomez, an aide to Council Member Cano and member of the Minneapolis DFL executive committee.
Given that his wife is a potential candidate, McConnell said he realizes now he should have checked with more people before commissioning the poll. But he did discuss the idea with the Second Ward committee and with the treasurer of the Minneapolis DFL, Tim Bonham. The poll will be on the agenda at the central committee’s March 9 meeting.
“If people think I need to pay for it, I’m happy to pay for it,” McConnell said.
Regardless of whether his wife runs for the seat, McConnell said he will be looking for a candidate to run.
“I would love to recruit a candidate,” he said. “That’s my job, to elect DFLers.”
Gomez said she would rather the city DFL spend money organizing new voters — immigrants, young people — for the caucuses. Improving voter turnout in November should also be a priority, she said.
“It looks awful,” she said. “We were told at the February meeting that we have barely enough money in the bank to pay for the caucuses and conventions that we have coming up.”
Campaign finance reports show the Minneapolis DFL had $14,487 in the bank at the end of 2016.
Gordon said he called McConnell about the poll and they talked it over. It seems reasonable for the DFL to explore fielding a challenger, Gordon said Wednesday, and a good race is always good for the community.
“Hopefully people think that I’m doing an all right job,” Gordon said. “But I’m sure that there’s room for improvement.”