DFL turns focus to training

On the state convention's final day, DFLers received advice from outside groups about the ins and outs of mobilizing supporters.

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Delegate Susan Moravec stood on a table as she helped count members of a potential caucus Sunday morning on the final day of the DFL state convention.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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ROCHESTER - As workers put away chairs and tables Sunday afternoon in the cavernous Rochester convention hall where DFLers gathered this weekend, Peggy Flanagan was bopping around and telling stories to delegates in a small room nearby.

"What do we mean by a base?" Flanagan, of the advocacy group Wellstone Action, asked 75 delegates who had signed up to hear about expanding their electoral might. "People who vote our way?" offered one. "The foundation?" another suggested.

After completing their formal endorsement business on Saturday and Sunday, the delegates had moved on to a new facet of their gathering -- training on how to turn their shared vision into reality.

The workshop and half a dozen more like it in the Mayo Civic Center weren't run by DFL officials, but rather by a number of groups with specialized political interests.

Democrats are quick to bash outsourcing as a business practice. But politically, they embraced outsourcing of election-year campaigning by inviting the White House Project, Wellstone Action, President Obama's re-election campaign organization and other groups to train convention activists.

Two groups that oppose proposed constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot in November also conducted training sessions on Sunday.

Minnesotans United for All Families is campaigning against the amendment to ban same-sex marriage and Our Vote, Our Future opposes one that would require voters to show photo ID before casting ballots. The party has voted to endorse both groups' work against the amendments.

DFL Chair Ken Martin said the party is "being strategic" by taking advantage of like-minded groups' expertise. By partnering with activist groups that are already doing work the DFL supports, it can concentrate on what it does the best, he said.

Flanagan, who taught two sessions for delegates, is director of external affairs at Wellstone Action, a group that trains progressive activists all over the country. She's taught the session on base-building that she delivered Sunday about 50 times, she said.

'So many new ideas'

Joanne Weygand, who is running her husband's campaign for a Minnesota Senate seat, said Flanagan's training was effective. "I have so many new ideas," Weygand, of Carver, said afterward.

Before he became party chair, Martin was already practiced in the art of organizational cooperation. He was executive director of the 2010 Fund and Win Minnesota, which gathered donations from unions, political action committees and Democrats and fed it to the Alliance for a Better Minnesota and another organization that helps Democrats with campaign infrastructure. The Alliance then ran ads to support Democrats' quest to win the governor's office.

On Saturday, at his request, delegates were shown a video made by the Alliance for a Better Minnesota as part of its campaign to win a DFL-majority Legislature this fall. "I saw that video online and I thought it was a great video," Martin said.

But Republicans thought otherwise.

"Even by the low standards the Democratic Party has set for itself, it is still pretty shocking," said state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington. He has taken to calling the DFL and DFLers "Alida's Sock Puppets," because Alida Messinger, Gov. Mark Dayton's ex-wife, has given significant money to the Alliance for a Better Minnesota.

Martin countered that the video is in the public domain and that he didn't ask the Alliance to make it and didn't ask the group's permission to show it.

"There's nothing illegal or inappropriate about it. There's nothing unseemly about it," Martin said.

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @rachelsb

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