Minnesota’s Democratic Party (DFL) Convention, 2018

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Today, Rebecca Otto, Minnesota Auditor, suspended her campaign for Governor of Minnesota.

Rebecca had run to seek the endorsement from the Minnesota DFL (that’s what we call Democrats in Minnesota). The state convention, at which endorsements are determined by a large collection of dedicated delegates and alternates, was held in Rochester. (Note: candidates can still run in the August primary, but it is often considered bad form to ignore the endorsement process.) I was there as a delegate. I’d never been to a state convention before, though I’ve been to plenty of state Senate District and Congressional District ones. The state convention was similar but ten times bigger, twice as loud, three times as long, and doubly exhausting.

Rebecca lost the endorsement process with a gut-punching and unexpected low number of votes on the first ballot, followed by a long period of chaos, followed by the exuberant endorsement of candidate Erin Murphy. Congratulations to Erin, who has doubled down on this process with her choice of picking a second Erin, Erin Maye Quade, as her running mate. That was a stunningly excellent choice.

But back to the Otto campaign. I was truly expecting the numbers to be different in this endorsement process. I was not personally privy to the detailed data on this campaign, but I had seen the top-line analyses. I expected Murphy, not Otto, to be in distant third. Clearly the numbers were wrong!

I don’t fault the people in the Otto campaign for getting that wrong. Well, yes, they did get it wrong, but this is not uncommon. I myself have had the job of counting delegates. I’ve gotten it at least as wrong. I know others who have as well. Campaigns often, perhaps to some extent, in most races, end up with incorrect delegate counts. (I note that as far as I know, the Murphy campaign had the numbers close to correct.) I have some ideas as to how this happens, and it might be helpful to work out some theory on this. But that is for later. For now, there is this one element of getting surprised by a low delegate count on the first ballot that I’d prefer to dwell on for just one moment:

It feels really, really, bad.

I don’t feel it is my place to relate how things were in the war room after the end of the process. That is private. But I was struck by one thing I’ll leak out. The people in the room, all of whom I have great love and respect for, exhibited the full range of expected emotional states from quietly stunned to liquefied-in-place, except for Rebecca Otto herself. Rebecca was the strength in the room. That was not unexpected, but I think it is something that should be said. I know she felt just as bad. I know her just enough to have sensed that. But she was not the quivering bowl of jelly I would have been.

I helped Rebecca in her campaign for two reasons. One is simply that she and her husband, Shawn, are my friends. But I’ve had a lot of friends run for office for whom I offered only perfunctory help. In the case of Rebecca Otto, there was another reason. I knew that Rebecca was blindingly smart, and a deeply good and honest person, and ever thoughtful. I know that for each area of policy, Rebecca would assemble her best assets and then ask them to assemble their best assets. These teams would then develop details and try ideas, in order to ultimately advance well developed proposals that could be brought to fruition in the State House to change the fundamental nature of economy, society, and culture in Minnesota, all in good ways. I was at the tail end of at least one of those assemblies, and contributed a bit to the policy development. There was a fact Rebecca often repeated in her stump speeches that I had worked on. I was proud to hear it mentioned again and again.

The other candidates are great people, great democrats, any one would be great as a governor, but I was supporting Rebecca Otto because I knew her approach and her results would be uniquely and powerfully transforming. People around the country were going to look at Minnesota, and go, “Wow, what the heck was that??? Why can’t we do that? Who did that? Let’s do that!” And the answer would be Rebecca Otto and the team she leads.

In the end, we are all Democrats. Just as importantly, those other guys? They are all Republicans. So, we have work to do. I like Erin Murphy. I will support her and her campaign, as the endorsed candidate. I’ll support all the endorsed candidates. I’ve been working on the campaign of our local Minnesota House, where my friend Ginny Klevorn hopes to unseat Representative Sarah Anderson, who is is a less religious but just as tea-happy mini-me version of Michel Bachmann, and leader of the evil Republican redistricting ploy in our state.

But I’ll be standing by for future versions of a Rebecca Otto campaign, should that happen, and I hope it does, somehow, sometime, somewhere.

A few notes about the other events at the convention.

The first one is a major piece of news that is still unfolding even as I write this.

Lori Swanson is the Minnesota Attorney General. Swanson has been the perennial heir apparent for that job forever. What I mean by that: everybody always assumed she’d be endorsed, then win. She has a great reputation and everybody likes her, etc. etc.

But this year, Matt Pelikan ran against Swanson for AG. Everybody seemed to like Matt, but everybody also said this about that race: we need Lori, she’s been great, Matt is great, but he has no experience, maybe he can run for something else someday.

Meanwhile, Swanson made a nuisance of herself at the very beginning of the pre-election season, last summer, telling everyone she might or might not run for Governor. This moved several good people into the position of running for the AG seat, but promising to pull out if Lori gives the governor’s race a pass. She pulled that trick (do I sound annoyed? sorry!) for way too long, using the fact that she was a state AG but also, not really an actual candidate, to exploit her moves along with other state AGs against Trump for positive Democratic Party cred.

At the convention, two things happened, then the boat tipped over.

First, Matt Pelikan, who is one very impressive young man, gave a speech that in my view was in the top three given at the convention, maybe the best one. He had the crowd on their feet. He also landed about eight good punches on the Swanson campaign, including noting Swanson’s NRA endorsement over the years, and her stand on various other issues that have become highly questionable even though everybody loves Lori and assumes she’s the automatic candidate.

Then, the Swanson campaign totally messed up their own presentation. Each campaign gets a certain number of minutes, then they have to get off the stage. Most campaigns have a short video, a person or two talk in favor of the candidate, then the candidate gives a rousing speech. Swanson had a mediocre video. Then, some dozen or so people lined up to each speak on her behalf. They were mostly unpracticed and poor speakers (including at least one who is an experienced politician who simply had not woken up that morning, it seemed). Each one spoke for 3-5 minutes. But they were supposed to speak for one minute! SO, half way through that awkward and embarrassing event, the whole lot of them got thrown off the stage, and Swanson never got to speak.

When the delegates voted, Pelekan had denied Swanson the endorsement. A very large number of delegates had probably figured, “OK, Lori is the obvious candidate, but Imma cast this one vote for Pelikan because he is so impressive.” The outcome of that vote was so astonishing, they had to bring in a special sweeper device to remove everyone’s jaws from the floor.

Before the second vote, Swanson dropped out. Ear shattering collective gasp.

My first thought? She’ll run in the primary for the AG slot!

My second thought, seconds later? No, wait! She’s running for governor!

And, low and behold, seconds ago as I write this, the news has leaked out: Swanson is running for Governor with Congressman Nolan as her Lt Gov.

In a less dramatic and less complicated event, former Republican and Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter ran against Senator Tina Smith for the endorsement. Smith got the endorsement, but Painter got a surprisingly large number of votes.

And, finally, another sad thing. I’ve always supported Jon Tolefson in his political career, and I wanted him to be endorsed for auditor. He had a lot of support, including the endorsement of the Environmental Caucus. In something of a surprise, Julie Blaha took the majority of votes on the first round, and Jon stepped away, allowing Julie to be endorsed by acclamation. That was sad for me, but more sad for Jon’s Mother, who was sitting with me in my unit delegation at the event.

That’s all I have for now, but later, there are some people I want to thank. First, some dust has to settle and and I have to go through some photos and videos I may post.

OK, everybody, get to work!

ADDED: Keith Ellison, US Congressmember and Democratic Party co-head, considering running for Minnesota AG? This makes no sense! The world is spinning in the wrong direction!

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21 thoughts on “Minnesota’s Democratic Party (DFL) Convention, 2018

  1. You’ve said Who, What, When, Where, but HOW and WHY?

    Are you sure the count was legit? Every article I read said Walz v Otto or Otto v Walz. (I’m assuming he was 2nd)

    Now I read Walz is going to the primary, and that Swanson is putting up her name for endorsement for governor. I thought you just said Erin won the governor’s endorsement.

    1. Swanson and Walz are going to the primary. Anybody can run in the primary, if they file by tomorrow afternoon.

      This forces the endorsed candidate to run as well.

  2. Greg, I was thrilled to find your blog. Excellent recap!
    I’m still in shock over the Swanson/Pelikan upset, and I hope Pelikan sends Hatch a nice thank you card. Now with Swanson jumping into the governor’s race, it just keeps getting weirder.
    Mike – While the numbers were unexpected for the Otto campaign, it seems they aligned very closely to what Murphy was expecting. I don’t believe the Otto campaign was intentionally inflating numbers or anything, but just genuinely did not get it right leading into the convention. That, and my perception based just on my own delegation is that the uncommitted delegates seemed to break for Murphy and Walz with Otto picking up much fewer.

    1. Roxi, I’m sure that this was a case of delegates who had previously indicated a preference for Otto changing over the prior 36 hours, including at the convention. Murphy outflanked Otto at the last minute. Time will eventually reveal the details of how that worked, but by then I’m sure no one but the most wonky will care.

      Meanwhile, I have to say that I predicted the Pelikan thing as indicated, and I’m happy about it. Swanson has ridden too long an a presumption. She is pro NRA, pro mining, pretty much to the right of all of the other Gubernatorial candidates. Swanson and Nolan are a gift to the copper-silver-sulfide mining industry.

      A gift, or a purchase.

      I suppose I’ll vote for Murphy in the primary, but if I see weakness on Murphy’s part and Walz seems strong and Swanson/Nolan are gaining, I might consider voting for walz, and stumping that vote, if it seems like it might help save the boundary waters from this mining, and stop the pipelines, and allow us to get seriouser about guns.

      The DFL Environmental Caucus has a membership meeting on June 24th. I’ll be there, possibly running for a position in it. I will take my cue from that caucus, but I’ll be sure we discuss these nuanced (and not so nuanced) details!

    2. Greg, I agree. Although Walz was my third choice, I’d go with him over Swanson if it was looking close. I wish we had runoff voting in MN.
      As for AG, I just read the MinnPost article on Hatch/Swanson and am feeling great about my Pelikan vote right now. He might have a tough time in the primary, but there could be any number candidates that would be an improvement in the AG office over the current turmoil.

  3. Do people think that the recent MN Supreme Court case Otto’s office lost contributed to the result?

  4. Greg goes from complaining about Walz and saying he won’t support that NRA guy to contemplating voting for him.
    Is Erin’s endorsement that meaningless?

    1. MikeN, please don’t misrepresent what I’ve said.

      RickR, no, nobody thinks that. That issue could have come up in the general, but it was not an issue in the DFL or at the convention.

      Roxi, every time I think about it, I become a stronger and stronger Pelikan supporter. I’m thinking Swanson and Ellison will fight it out (Hatch will withdraw), split each other’s votes, and everyone voting in the DFL primary will do what we did at the DFL convention. Pelikan will win the primary based on that.

    2. Sorry if I misrepresented:
      “Second, it is pure and simple BS, in my always humble opinion. He changed his mind to get the votes, just like he is putting the word “progressive” in where “blue dog” pertains again and again, because he has to do so for his campaign to survive. (Shame on everyone who bought into that, by the way … or are there really that many crytpo-gun-nuts in the Democratic party?)

      Walz deserves scorn, not votes. ”

      Now you are contemplating voting for him in a primary.

  5. What a pack of useless muppets.


    Couldn’t be arsed to give their own bloody platform, up front, loud and proud. It’s a pdf .

    I did find it here though.I assume it’s accurate.

    LINK REMOVED (See comment below)

    Oh yeah. Driftnets in Minnesota. Betcha that’s a big talking point.
    Now one BIG talking point would be understandably nukes.
    So did a search on Ottos campaigning on nukes, as per platform.
    Ya know, rallies she got her picture taken at or spoken at , interviews, books she might have written, etc.
    Not a sausage.
    She’s not really vocal about a really very important part of the platform it seems.
    Although, it should be said, the party is not very vocal either. Almost sorta embarrassed by it.
    If yas ain’t gonna promote it , or its outside your scope , don’t bloody put it in there. Just looks silly.
    It’s a journo wet dream to ask this simple shit, which makes me wonder about the qualities of journos in the region.
    Does the dfl wanna get rid of nukes from Minnesota? Betcha not one of the useless pricks would ask such an obvious question to
    party people about their own platform.
    I encourage Greg to ask it at the next meeting.

    1. Li D, I don’t know what you are yammering about, but the link you put up there was NOT the DFL party platform. It was a link I’d prefer my readers to not click on else they blame me for getting a disease of some kind.

      Here is the platform if anyone is interested in looking at it.


      As one of the people who is involved in helping to craft this platform, I’d be happy to answer any reasonable, direct, articulate questions about it.

    2. Thanks for sorting another link to the platform Greg. It was the first one I found I could organise a link to, cuz I dunno how to organize link to a pdf. If it had virus or something I’m very sorry.
      I’m surprised it needs to be a pdf rather than a simply accessible page on the party website.
      My critique is simply that the platform is crap if it’s not within the scope of the legislature the party wants to be elected to. Driftnets!
      And that I have seen bigger all evidence
      of the party supporting the NPT.
      Just saying it is a platform is useless.
      You could easily change my mind by posting a couple links on how the party
      is mad keen for denuclearization and brings it up repeatedly in its own sphere, and to representatives of other spheres, such as visiting Federal reps, or overseas dignitaries.
      It’s a damn important priority for all people, and the environment, isn’t it?
      Are not nukes a massive threat?
      That’s why it’s rightly on the platform.
      At a minimum, push for a nuke free zone in your state. Why wouldn’t yas?
      If yas ain’t into a denuclearization process, ok, but take it off the platform.
      Li D

    3. Searchwords: del minnesota anti nuclear. About 20 results. Mostly about nuclear energy. None about nukes.
      Searchwords: minnesota cat food.

    4. Li, what do you think people in Minnesota state government can do about nuclear weapons?

    5. Replying to anonymous.
      That ain’t up for me to decide.
      It’s in the platform. So at least several members went ” oh this is a big important issue and we got some ideas about sorting it out”. That’s what a platform is.
      Christ knows what those ideas are.
      Because they don’t seem to articulate em.
      Which isn’t very fair to party members, much less voters.
      There’s a real sense of avoiding the issue altogether.
      Christ, if party can’t write down at least 10 pages consisting of a description of issue,
      strategies, known and potential hurdles to strategies etc, an issue shouldn’t be in a platform. Or it stinks of utter ameturness and candidates who don’t have a fucking clue.
      I’ve said to Greg I will leave it alone and so that’s it from me on this subject. Thanks for query.

  6. Li: All of the party documents are PDFs

    I should have included this as well, the “action agenda” which is the current ask list for our representatives, a sort of living breathing do now platform. A bucket list for the elected, as it were (where kicking the bucket is being unelected or moving on)


    There are no driftnets in the party platform or action agenda. But there could be, since our platform and agenda has a national component, and ever since statehood we’ve had national representation in the form of a handful of House members and two Senators.

    The platform is not useless. It is less meaningful and powerful than it could be. There is a group of us working to make it more relevant. We shall see.

    Having said that, the platform comes from individuals who proposed items at several thousand caucuses. These proposals are then assembled into a document that removes redundancy at the organizing unit level (there are dozens of OUs). Then, these are voted on by the members of the OUs, and the proposals that get the most votes advance. At this point there are several thousand proposals, but with a lot of redundancy. This year, there ended up being 83 or so proposals. They were discussed and voted on at the state convention.

    I do not remember anything nuclear in the proposals I reviewed this year. You’d think there’d be something, but no.

    You are aggressively attacking the Minnesota DFL over its platform, but you are in fact unknowingly attacking the citizens of the state who consider themselves Democrats. That is not going to have any effect.

    What would have an effect is organizing Minnesotans to get them to propose items along the lines, covering the issues, you suggest. Do it across much of the state, with enough people, you’ll get a platform or action agenda item on the issues you are talking about!

    DFL Minnesota anti-nuclear gets 66,000 results
    DFL Minnesota cat food gets 74,000 results.

    I think we have a good balance there.

    1. Ok. I will leave it at that Greg. Thank you for reply and illuminating the process of how the
      platform is developed.

  7. Greg, thanks. I have seen a few news reports about that issue with the MN Auditor’s office lawsuit, but, not being in MN, I didn’t know how big an issue it really was there.

  8. It is a big issue, but until the legislature decides our state needs an auditor’s office that audits, it is pretty much over.

  9. Its a miracle that I am alive today. I encounter herpes virus for good four (4) years and i was cured by Dr. Sambo with his herbal medicine divinespellhome @ gmail . com

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