Tom Perez was at a South St. Paul union hall last week to rally DFL volunteers. Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is a talented speaker, but he gained a reputation in recent months for inappropriately salty language in his speeches about President Trump. He seems to have decided Democrats need a positive message, if his union hall speech is any indication. Not to say he didn't get some barbs in on Republicans, but his speech was much more about core Democratic principles. Perez, the Buffalo-bred son of Dominican immigrants whose father died when he was 12, had the crowd rapt.

But after another loss in a special congressional election last week, this time in a suburban Atlanta district, Democrats — and their local brethren in the DFL — are still hunting for a way to sell the country on their vision.

Sheldon Clay, a creative for a local ad firm, recently took to the online platform Medium with some ideas borrowed from corporate branding. His advice? Think simple but big: "The Democratic Party stands for truth, justice and American values."

Clay argues that Republicans have smartly boiled their brand down to freedom. That gives Democrats a lot of room to maneuver, from a branding perspective, if only they will think more like marketers and less like political ward heelers, Clay argues.

Union strong

A question: What percentage of the 1,200-plus delegates at the DFL convention in Rochester next year will be teachers or retired teachers? How about nurses? Wonder if the campaign of Rep. Erin Murphy knows. James Haggar, most recently "political action coordinator" at Education Minnesota, is managing her campaign. And, Education Minnesota lobbyist and politico Paul Winkelaar is a friend and ally. And of course Murphy is the former executive director of the nurses union.

Castile fallout

Gov. Mark Dayton was as somber as I've seen him after a meeting with black leaders last week. He described his own reaction to watching the video of the Philando Castile killing. Dayton seemed near to breaking when discussing Diamond Reynolds' 4-year-old daughter's narrative of events from the back of the squad car. He brusquely moved on, obviously not wanting to make himself the story.

Dayton said he would meet again with black leaders to consider a plan of action. The issue is polarized, however, with House Republicans especially unlikely to move away from staunch support for the police.