For the first time in his 27 years on the Hennepin County Board, Peter McLaughlin failed to receive the DFL endorsement during his party’s convention over the weekend.
One of his opponents, Angela Conley, received as many as 57 percent of the delegate votes after 10 rounds of balloting. Sixty percent of the 80 delegate votes were needed to earn the endorsement.
McLaughlin will still run to keep his seat in the August primary, but the lack of an endorsement is a sign of a changing party.
“It was an amazing moment of support we had. It was a very intense convention,” said Conley, 40, a black candidate who works in job assistance for Hennepin County. “Some wanted to see history made.”
DFL delegates endorsed candidates for the two other board seats on the ballot this year: incumbent Marion Greene and newcomer Irene Fernando for the seat held by the retiring Linda Higgins.
The Hennepin County Board has never had a commissioner of color, and each of the three open seats have nonwhite candidates. Conley said there has been a demographic shift in her very diverse district, which mostly covers east and downtown areas of Minneapolis.
“There are a lot of progressive Democrats looking for change, and I would bring a presence to the board on racial disparity, affordable housing and environmental justice,” she said. “I’ve experienced these things personally, and people want to see that represented in the highest level of county leadership.”
McLaughlin, 68, who is white, knew it was going to be a close vote. This is the first time he hasn’t received the party endorsement for District 4. Megan Kuhl-Stennes, 34, an advocate for zero waste and climate change, is endorsed by the Green Party.
“We had a good debate,” McLaughlin said Monday. “There is a lot of desire for change. I sure desire it. If you are not mad, you are not paying attention.”
McLaughlin’s lack of an endorsement may be continuing a trend of voters seeking new blood in local politics, said Brian Melendez, a former state DFL Party chair. On Saturday, County Attorney Mike Freeman lost the DFL endorsement to challenger Mark Haase.
Last year, longtime Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson didn’t receive the DFL endorsement and lost in the election to Phillipe Cunningham, a transgender candidate of color and aide to former Mayor Betsy Hodges.
Fernando, 32, a Filipino-American who has spent most of her life in youth mentorship, won the District 2 endorsement. She beat Kim Ellison, 53, a Minneapolis school board member, who withdrew from the endorsement race. Neither candidate could be reached for comment Monday.
The other candidate, Mark Stenglein, didn’t participate in the convention. He didn’t seek any party endorsement when he was a Hennepin County commissioner from 1997 to 2012. He is recovering from a serious head injury and hasn’t commented on whether he will remain in the race.
In District 3, Greene won the party endorsement over LaDonna Redmond. In a statement, Greene said she is grateful that the party endorses her vision for the county and is excited for the summer ahead to talk with constituents across District 3. “My work continues to be guided by our collective desire for prosperity and equity for all those who work, go to school and live in Hennepin County,” she said.
Redmond, 54, a diversity manager for the Seward Community Co-op, said she has been asked by her supporters to stay in the race. The filing deadline is June 5, and she will take the time to make a final decision. “My supporters say that the convention doesn’t represent all the different interests in the community, and that’s nobody’s fault,” she said. “That’s just the way things work out.”
When the convention ended Saturday night, Conley and McLaughlin shook hands and said they would see each other in the August primary.