Two Minneapolis City Council candidates have challenged the outcome of last week’s DFL caucus in the Sixth Ward, a scene of confusion from which Council Member Abdi Warsame appears to have emerged victorious.
Warsame’s opponents, Mohamud Noor and Tiffini Flynn Forslund, filed separate challenges with the Minneapolis DFL Party late Thursday, asking that the party forgo endorsing a candidate in the ward, which includes Cedar-Riverside and parts of the Phillips and Seward neighborhoods. The challenges won’t be fully settled until the ward convention on May 6.
Turnout in the ward was massive, with 800 people at the Cedar-Riverside precinct alone. The Minneapolis DFL enlisted 100 volunteers from the state party to help in the Sixth Ward, said Minneapolis DFL Chairman Dan McConnell, and arranged for off-duty police officers to help direct traffic.
“It still wasn’t enough,” McConnell said. “I don’t know how we do it again.”
In her complaint, Flynn Forslund said she was “not prepared for the disorganization and chaos that erupted in many precincts.” While she was pleased with the participation, she said “rules were not followed in the fight to win between Noor and Warsame.”
A Noor supporter was writing delegate names down before a subcaucus at Elliot Park, and Warsame interpreters told participants to go home before a subcaucus in Ventura Village, Flynn Forslund said. Subcaucuses are the critical moment in a heavily attended caucus, since they determine how delegates are awarded.
A Flynn Forslund staffer said she saw a Noor supporter and a Warsame supporter “literally” fight over an older woman at Stewart Park. Interpreters in at least two cases were provided by the Warsame campaign, which Flynn Forslund’s campaign found troubling.
The police were an “extremely negative force” at the caucuses in the Sixth Ward, said one Flynn Forslund staffer, adding that they “spent the majority of their time walking around sneering at people.” And at Seward Montessori, somebody pulled the fire alarm, causing people to leave before the caucus was over.
“There has to be a better way to regulate this democratic process,” Flynn Forslund wrote, and asked that there be no endorsement in the Sixth Ward.
Noor complained that the gymnasium at the Brian Coyle Community Center was not large enough for the caucus in Cedar-Riverside and that not all caucusgoers were able to register. Firefighters moved the caucus in that precinct from the gymnasium to Currie Field next door.
Noor also alleged that nonresidents participated in caucuses, and blamed Warsame supporters for “trickery and gimmicks” that created “fretfulness” at precinct caucuses, despite a pre-caucus meeting between the three candidates aimed at paving the way for a smooth caucus night.
“We strongly believe that the outcome of the DFL selection of delegates was conducted in an unjust way and has certainly violated our previous agreement and led to an unfair process disadvantaging my campaign,” Noor wrote in a letter to the Minneapolis DFL, asking that either the caucus results be thrown out or the DFL hold another caucus in the Sixth Ward.
The DFL decided at a meeting Thursday not to hold another caucus, but a committee will look into the allegations and make a recommendation before the ward convention, McConnell said. The delegates selected at the caucus will decide at the convention what to do with the recommendation.
All campaigns were asked to bring translators to all precincts, McConnell said, to make sure translation was handled properly. In future elections, he said, the Somali community will have to work with the DFL on a better way to handle the caucuses, given the high turnout, the language barrier for many caucusgoers and the DFL’s struggles to keep things running smoothly.
“It can’t be people from the outside coming in and running it,” McConnell said. “They need leaders in the community to come together and figure this out.”
Warsame said Friday that his campaign had no reason to tamper with the process, since he was able to turn out more voters than his opponents.
“Why would we say ‘leave’ when we had the most people?” he said. “The challengers don’t have enough delegates, so they want to delegitimize and defranchise the community.”
Warsame also said he and Somali-Americans should be proud of the throngs of caucusgoers, some of whom stayed for five hours, especially given that two elections ago in 2009, very few participated.
“It was a huge turnout, and it was a bit of a mess,” Warsame said. “But people should be applauded for coming out and sticking with the process. These people stayed throughout, because they wanted to be counted.”