Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

DFL: Reconnecting with grassroots

Jodi Summit
Posted 4/3/19

TOWER— Activists with the DFL Party in northeastern Minnesota are hoping to reconnect with their grassroots and they held another in a series of meetings across the area this past Thursday in …

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DFL: Reconnecting with grassroots

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TOWER— Activists with the DFL Party in northeastern Minnesota are hoping to reconnect with their grassroots and they held another in a series of meetings across the area this past Thursday in Tower.

More than two dozen area residents turned out for a wide-ranging discussion with members of the DFL’s District 3 board. Board member Leah Rogne, of Gheen, noted that board members held similar meetings earlier this winter in Cook and Ely. Results from the three meetings will be compiled and brought back to an upcoming district board meeting in Duluth. The meeting attracted residents from Tower-Soudan, Greenwood, Eagles Nest, Ely, Vermilion Lake, and Embarrass. While Rogne led the discussion, District 3 board members Carol Orban, of Ely, and Missy Roach, from rural Cook, also helped to facilitate the roughly 90-minute meeting.

District Chair Bob Miller, from the Duluth area, also attended, listening to the input from residents.

Rogne said the meeting had a purpose. “We want to engage DFL people in our community,” said Rogne. “We want to talk about the last election and prepare for the next one. We want to let the candidates know what the grassroots voters want,” she added. “And we want to help guide the DFL to select good candidates for upcoming elections.”

Rogne noted that while the DFL did well statewide in 2108, that wasn’t the case in the Eighth District, which was one of only three U.S. House districts in the country that switched from Democrat to the GOP.

The contentious Eighth District endorsing convention in Duluth, where delegates failed to endorse a candidate for Congress was a problem, many noted. “The good old boys had their agenda,” said Andy Urban, of Eagles Nest. “And they found a way to get it through. That is why people who have supported the DFL for 50 years say, no more.”

“We need to reform the process at the district level,” said Steve Wilson, of Tower, who argued the endorsement process is set up to narrow the pool of people willing to participate. Others cited “byzantine rules” and procedures at the convention, which can be confusing and frustrating, particularly for first-time convention delegates.

Others discussed the lack of state DFL party support up in the area, including a lack of such basic campaign tools as lawn signs.

Most agreed that Joe Radinovich was a weak candidate, and said that established DFL politicians in the area, with a few exceptions, did not appear to publicly support him.

Carol Orban said Radinovich campaign staffers assigned to this area had little or no knowledge about this part of the district.

Spending by outside political action committees was another concern, particularly the more than $350,000 in campaign spending that outside groups poured into the primary contest, ostensibly in support of Radinovich. Given the sources of that funding, which came from largely conservative elements, some speculated that outside groups wanted to advance Radinovich in the DFL primary, thinking he would be a weaker candidate than some of the others in the race, in part because of a history of mostly minor traffic infractions.

Many of those who turned out agreed that the DFL needs a clearer message and greater social media savvy to more effectively reach out to younger voters. Several suggested that DFL candidates need to support longtime DFL issues, such as protecting the environment.

“We can’t abandon the environment history of the DFL,” said Urban. “They can’t talk out of both sides of their mouths. People voted for Trump because of the perception they could trust he would do what he said.”

Miller said that candidates need to do a better job of being specific about the mining issue.

“The DFL supports iron mining,” he said. “We do not support sulfide mining….that’s why we lost, we let the Republicans define us.”

The group talked about the impact of bringing statewide candidates up to meet local voters, such as the outreach done by the Northern Progressives group in Cook, and the Tuesday Group in Ely.

“This is what the DFL party should have been doing all along,” said Roach.

The group decided to hold regular meetings in Tower, which is centrally-located within District 3. They plan to meet on the fourth Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at Sulu’s. Everyone interested in area DFL or progressive politics is invited to attend.

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Lee Peterson

I attended the "grassroots" meeting at Sulu's. Concerning the 2018 8th Dist. race, my take on it is:

Joe Radinovich was not a "weak candidate". The results were: Stauber--51%

Radinovich--45%

Sandman--4%

Not exactly a blowout. And in the end, a vote for Sandman was certainly a vote for Stauber.

In comparison, Rick Nolan won in 2014 by <2% and in 2016 by <1% margins. Not exactly landslides.

Both years, Rick Nolan was endorsed at the Spring DFL endorsing convention and had party money and all Summer to campaign against Stuart Mills.

By contrast, the DFL delegates at the 2018 April 14 endorsing convention in Duluth chose to not endorse a candidate. That meant that the DFL candidates had to spend limited money and their time from April 14 until after the August 14 primary campaigning against each other. By the time the August 14 primary was decided, Radinovich had obviously been hobbled by a lack of time and money.

The DFL delegates should have endorsed a candidate April 14 in Duluth. When we selected delegates at the Ely Convention to go to Duluth and endorse, our sizable group insisted that the delegates we voted to send would stay voting in Duluth until there was an endorsement. Many delegates didn't honor that. Too bad. They helped to elect Stauber by not endorsing in April. That's simple. Instead of continuing to vote until an endorsement was achieved, the delegates chose to vote "no endorsement" on the 11th ballot. They didn't have to. They could have kept negotiating and voting until there was an endorsement. There was no need to "reform the process". The delegates just needed to stay and vote until it was done. "Endorsing Convention....."

Another factor in Radinovich's loss was the refusal of Sen. Kolbuchar to meaningfully stump across the 8th District with and for Joe Radinovich. Klobuchar could have made a big difference in the 8th. Probably enough of a difference to get Joe Radinovich in.

Regarding the "more than 350,000 in campaign spending that outside groups poured into the primary contest, ostensibly in support of Radinovich…." The crazy TV ads and outlandishly large heavy mailers that bothered everybody, were designed and paid for by the big shot Republicans to do just that. When these things came out, I recognized right away that they were meant to damage Joe. Simple trick. I called Joe and talked to him about it. He said that he and his staff tried to put a stop to it but they couldn't. Now there is a seriously corrupt use of outside, hostile PAC money, that needs to be reformed.

Sunday, April 7