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— 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.