Death of DFL endorsement process exaggerated

Many will argue the election of Betsy Hodges as mayor-elect along with the election of the new faces to the Minneapolis City Council is the beginning of the end of the Minneapolis DFL “machine,” as its critics call it.

Individuals making such claims are misinformed or view this previous election through a very myopic lens.

In the aftermath of Election Day, many people began talking about a dramatic shift in the way party politics is conducted in Minneapolis. I would like to disagree and paint an alternative narrative.

This year DFL-endorsed candidates showed the party’s support is still extremely important to voters. The elections of Jacob Frey, Abdi Warsame and Lisa Bender should be proof the DFL endorsement process works and is valuable.

In each case, these individuals motivated many young, new and diverse people to engage in the DFL caucus and convention process. Each one was able to secure the DFL endorsement away from an entrenched incumbent. Each one was able to easily defeat their formerly endorsed rivals who decided not to abide by the endorsement process.

The process also proved important in other key races. In Ward 12, DFL candidate Andrew Johnson was elected after he was able to organize through the caucus process and block the endorsement of incumbent and DFL candidate Sandy Colvin-Roy, which prompted her retirement from the Council.

In Ward 13, DFL-endorsed candidate Linea Palmisano was able to defeat DFL rival Matt Perry, who decided not to abide by the endorsement post-convention.

In regard to the mayoral race, it’s true that former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew outspent Hodges. Several prominent unions backed Andrew, such as the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, but this narrative fails to paint a truly active picture of the dynamic of the race.

Service Employees International Union, one of the most active and motivated unions in Minnesota, endorsed Hodges. TakeAction Minnesota and womenwinning, two of the strongest political organizations in the state, also backed Hodges.

Though many portray the traditional DFL “establishment” as having supported Andrew, the same people fail to mention that many DFL elected officials, including state Sen. Scott Dibble, state Rep. Karen Clark, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Duluth Mayor Don Ness, all backed Hodges.

Many point out that Hodges was able to block the party’s endorsement of Andrew at the Minneapolis DFL city convention as a turning point in Minneapolis politics. But these same people fail to mention that Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who at the time was considered a political outsider, successfully used the same tactic in 2001 against DFL incumbent Sharon Sayles Belton.

In short, Hodges was an underdog, but to call her a political outsider, as many have attempted, is simply disingenuous.

If anything, the 2013 Minneapolis elections strengthened the Minneapolis DFL by bringing in many new and diverse faces into the caucus and convention process.

The endorsement process is not perfect. Reforms need to create greater accessibility, transparency and accountability.

But ultimately, Minneapolis still has a DFL mayor and 12 DFL City Council members. To me this is not a sign of a catastrophic shift in municipal politics, but rather an indication of voter approval of the status quo.