Minnesota Democrats grappling with the domino effect

Minnesota DFL convention
Delegates and supporters of Erin Murphy were ecstatic late Saturday afternoon, June 2, 2018 when U.S. Rep. Tim Walz dropped out of contention and Murphy was endorsed as the DFL gubernatorial candidate at the state convention in Rochester, Minn.
Jerry Olson for MPR News

Democrats from across Minnesota met in Rochester last weekend for a convention to gather party support around candidates for statewide offices.

Or, at least they tried.

State Rep. Erin Murphy walked away with the DFL endorsement for governor. Julie Blaha, a former math teacher and the current secretary and treasurer for the AFL-CIO, nabbed the endorsement for state auditor and Matt Pelikan is the DFL's endorsed candidate for attorney general.

Shortly after the endorsements were announced, the Democratic field began shifting.

  • • U.S. Rep. Tim Walz made it clear he'll take his gubernatorial campaign to the primary against the endorsed candidate, state Rep. Erin Murphy.

  • • After Lori Swanson, the incumbent attorney general, lost the endorsement to DFL activist, Matt Pelikan, she decided to shift her focus to the governor's race.

  • • Seeing an opportunity, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison filed to run for attorney general, leaving his seat in the 5th Congressional District open.

  • • In response to Ellison vacating his seat, eight other Democrats entered the fray for his 5th District seat.

James Farnsworth is a political activist and student at the University of Minnesota. He joined Katharine Tinucci, senior vice president of MZA Company, and the former campaign manager for Mark Dayton, and MPR News Host Kerri Miller for a conversation about how Democrats feel about the party chaos.

Young Democrats had a lot to say as they called in to MPR News:

Rishab, 20, in North Oaks was concerned by the lack of a clear message from the party. "Republicans are incredible marketers. They have a very simple ideology and can get that out to the voters." He noted that the flood of recent changes don't help with that messaging. "All these moves the Democrats are doing are very calculating and it's very difficult for the American people to understand what their position really is."

Mercedes described her experience with the process in a different light. She served as a Faith in Minnesota delegate for the Democratic party and saw people coming together in the room working toward a common good. And she noted frustration when candidates do not abide by the endorsements. "They say they want to have a primary because they say they want the people to decide," Mercedes said. But, she added, "the people already did decide. There are precinct and local caucuses, and there you could go elect a delegate to go the state convention."

Sammy, 22, called in from Minneapolis called his experience as a first-time delegate "onerous and inaccessible" from the start. "You have to go to your precinct caucus on a Tuesday in February," he said. "I spent 12 hours at my senate district convention on a Saturday in March. And then gave up a whole weekend in June to be in Rochester at the statewide convention." Sammy said he recognizes that prospect is hard for others with families, strict work schedules, illnesses and other obligations, but added, "I don't think this is necessarily the most democratic way to choose a candidate ... and here we are going to the primary anyway, so what was all of this for?"

The party will face its next big test on Aug. 14 during the statewide primaries.

Use the audio player above to hear the full discussion.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.