I moved from Iowa to Minnesota in 1977. I was a strong Democrat moving to a strong Democratic state – the land of Humphrey and Mondale (the Vice President in 1977). I remember driving the U-Haul north on Interstate 35 and getting excited when I came over the hill in Burnsville and saw downtown Minneapolis in the distance. I was going to get involved in Minnesota politics! 41 years later, I’m finally going to my first State Convention on Friday. What happened? Well, life happened. Please indulge me while I look back on my journey to the 2018 DFL State Convention.
I grew up on an 80-acre farm north of Marshalltown, Iowa. My dad said that he was a Roosevelt-Truman Democrat because, during the depression, the Democrats were the only people who cared about the poor and unemployed. That was good enough for me. In 1968, I slapped a Eugene McCarthy bumper sticker on my bedroom mirror and started caring about politics. I went to Cornell College in Mt. Vernon and got a world-class education thanks to the Iowa Tuition Grant Program. Don’t tell me that government can’t help poor kids get ahead. I met Nancy, got married, lived in Des Moines for three years and then in 1977, moved to Minnesota – the land of McCarthy, Humphrey, and Mondale. I was looking forward to helping Walter Mondale become the next President after Jimmy Carter. That didn’t work out, and my involvement in politics didn’t work out.
I got a job, a family, and then went through some difficult years of unemployment and underemployment. I know what it’s like to depend on unemployment insurance. My focus was on family and employment. I never seemed to have time for politics.
I always voted, and when we moved to Plymouth in 1982, I started volunteering as the Precinct Chair. If you have ever acted as the precinct chair, you know that it does not require a lot of responsibilities. In the fall of 2003, Nancy and I became empty-nesters as we sent Kevin off to college. 2003 was year three of the George W. Bush presidency, and I decided it was finally time to get active in politics.
My first door knocking for a political campaign was in 2006 when Terri Bonoff was running for re-election in Senate District 36. She won, and in the process, I learned that one person who is willing to knock on doors can have an impact on a local race. In 2010 and 2012, I got even more involved in helping Audrey Britton run for the Minnesota House of Representatives. We lived in a deeply red area of Plymouth, so she lost both times, but came very close in the second race.
From 2004 to today, I’ve attended almost every Precinct Caucus and Senate District (SD) Convention, but have not had a chance to attend the State Convention. For those of you who don’t understand the confusing process on how to get selected to attend the State Convention, let me digress and offer a very quick overview of the four-step DFL Precinct and Convention Process.
- Step One – Precinct Caucus. Held in your local neighborhood. Among other business, delegates are selected to attend the Senate District Convention. Usually, in the suburbs, anyone who wants to get selected, gets selected. I’ve been to a precinct caucus where we had five volunteers who wanted to attend the next step, and we could have sent ten. In Minneapolis where there are more active democrats, they usually have to vote to see who is selected to attend the next step.
- Step 2 – Senate District Convention (in Greater Minnesota, they have Organizing Unit Conventions based on counties). At these conventions (among other business), the candidates for the Minnesota House and Senate are endorsed, and delegates are selected to attend both the Congressional District Convention and the State Convention. This is where it gets tricky. Usually, the convention uses the “walking sub-caucus” process to divide the convention into smaller groups, so that minorities and special interests can be represented. (I just googled “walking sub-caucus” and found, to my great surprise, that it was designed in the late 1960’s by the Minnesota DFL!). The sub-caucus is then assigned a number of delegates they can select for the next two conventions (Steps 3 and 4), and then the members of the sub-caucus vote for those delegates.
- Step 3 – Congressional District. Endorses the candidate for the congressional district (among other business).
- Step 4 – State Convention. Endorses candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor, and U.S. Senate. (Among a whole lot of other business.)
I found that it was not easy for an old white guy to get selected to attend Steps 3 and 4 because there are lots of old white guys that want to go, and not that many young people, women, or minority attendees who are willing to spend two more weekends in the summer at political conventions. I was selected once in 2008 to attend those conventions. I attended the CD3 Convention but was unable to attend the State Convention that year due to a business conflict.
In 2014, we moved to Brooklyn Park, where I am lucky to have Melissa Hortman as my representative in the Minnesota house. We moved in June ‘14, and I started volunteering for her campaign in late summer. November came, and she won. I found out that working for a winning campaign is more fun than losing. This year, I am Melissa’s most active volunteer.
Besides helping Melissa, I’m volunteering for Tim Walz’s campaign for governor, Dean Phillips for Congressional District 3, and Hollies Winston for Mayor of Brooklyn Park. All of that volunteering convinced my sub-caucus to select me as a state delegate, to attend the State Convention. I’m glad they did! I’m looking forward to tweeting and blogging about the State Convention. You can follow my blog here and my Twitter account @mndemsvolunteer.
Training to be a Tim Walz Delegate at the State Convention.
Letting my neighbors know who I support. It’s the only lawn sign in the neighborhood.
This mirror was in my bedroom in high school. I rescued it from the farmhouse and it is now hanging by my front door.