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Hot Dish Politics

Tracking Minnesota’s political scene and keeping you up-to-date on those elected to serve you

Some DFL lawmakers write letter attacking party strategy

A group of current and former DFL legislators wrote a letter to party leaders criticizing DFL campaign strategy that they say “intentionally ignores many voters and offends others.”

The 8-page memo obtained by the Star Tribune was signed by 11 sitting lawmakers, including greater Minnesota stalwarts Rep. Paul Marquart and Sen. Kent Eken, but also Metro legislators like Sen. John Marty and Rep. Paul Rosenthal.

The memo to the DFL State Central Committee criticizes the party’s strategy for reaching voters via face-to-face, door-to-door conversations.  The DFL is emphasizing data collection and a too-small group of targeted voters at the expense of a broader approach that would try to reach more Minnesotans and in a friendlier fashion, the memo argues through anonymous anecdotes.  

Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, who was not one of the signatories, said it’s always good to rethink approaches, especially after the 2016 results. However, she added:  “I don’t think we should be making decisions based on anecdotes.” The DFL's data-centric approach that did not work in 2016 worked well in 2012 when the party took full control of state government, she said.

As for criticism of the DFL voter database, which is the lifeblood of the party’s efforts to keep track of voters, she said, “I wouldn’t want to run without it.”  

The timing of the letter has irked some in the DFL, whose central committee is meeting Saturday to elect a chair. Without naming him, the letter appears to be an attack on DFL Chairman Ken Martin, who is running against liberal activist and former associate chair Donna Cassutt. Martin declined to comment on the memo.

Sen. Dan Schoen, a Martin supporter, said the DFL was saddled with the effects of the presidential race whose outcome surprised most. He said Martin had built the necessary infrastructure for success since he took over at the urging of Gov. Mark Dayton after his 2010 election. 

Sen. Chris Eaton, who signed the letter because she said she wants the party to re-think some door-knocking tactics, is supporting Martin, she said. “He can bring the resources -- financial and organizational -- to bring the party together.”

The DFL lost legislative seats in 2016, including control of the state Senate, and President Trump nearly broke a 42 year Republican losing streak in the presidential race here.  




Rep. Keith Ellison in tight race in today's vote to lead DNC

ATLANTA -- It was a day of pigeonholing and persuading here.

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison is in the final 18 hours of his bid to become chair of the Democratic National Committee. Ellison's chief competitor is Obama administration Labor Secretary Tom Perez, though another five people are vying for the position.

The hotel where the DNC winter meeting is being held is littered with campaign signs. The 400-some voting delegates wearing blue nametags that say "DNC Member" are moving in and out of conference rooms and caucus meetings. Even if they're wearing a button that proclaims who they are voting for -- green buttons that say "KEITH" or blue ones that say "TOM"  -- they will be collared by one of the candidates or one of the candidates' representatives to try and secure a vote or a change of heart before Saturday. 

By all accounts, the race has tightened between Ellison and Perez, both of whom have conference rooms on the 12th floor and both of whom are trying to convince as many voting delegates as possible they can win. DNC organizers predict multiple rounds of ballots in a contest that could stretch all day. There hasn't been a contested DNC race like this for chair since the 1980s.

To win, the victor must clinch the majority of the votes cast.

Ellison reportedly has New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio coming down here to help him this evening. And, possibly, Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon and Democratic House member from the Atlanta suburbs.

"It's a dead heat in a merry go around," deadpanned J.P. Barone, a voting member from White Bear Lake in Minnesota and an Ellison supporter.