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Minneapolis’ DFL precinct caucuses: ‘Wedge’ issues — and complications in the 10th Ward

Thousands of DFLers turned out at caucuses throughout Minneapolis
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson
Thousands of DFLers turned out at caucuses throughout Minneapolis Tuesday night.

It took nearly three hours and walking sub-caucuses to select 67 delegates to Minneapolis’ 10th Ward DFL convention, but residents of the neighborhood known as the Wedge weren’t about to make peace just so they could go home early.

 They came to their precinct caucus to be counted, and if it took three hours, then they were willing to invest three hours.

Thousands of DFLers turned out at caucuses throughout the city Tuesday night, the first step in the process that eventually will produce party endorsements for mayor and City Council races.

It all started simply enough with a standing-room-only crowd in a Jefferson School music classroom in the 10th Ward.

For the record, there are four candidates running for the City Council seat currently occupied by DFLer Meg Tuthill.

DFLer Lisa Bender is Tuthill’s neighbor and a challenger. Both live in the Wedge, and both were elected delegates to the April 27 ward convention. DFLers Ken Bradley and Kendal Killian are also running for the seat, and both dropped by to say a few words.

“I will represent those who often do not have a seat at the table,” said Bradley, who advertises himself as an energy and environmental organizer. For his trouble, he emerged with three of the 67 delegates.

“I know how to solve big things because I’ve done it before,” said Killian, who has been an active DFL organizer since moving to Minneapolis on a Greyhound bus. Yes, moving here on a bus was part of his campaign speech. He also ended the night with three of the 67 delegates.

“I’ll provide the leadership we need to bring people together,” said Bender, who is a transportation coordinator by trade. Her supporters -- some easy to spot in their maroon Lisa Bender T-shirts -- emerged with 22 delegates.

“I would like to be retained as your Council Member for another four years,” said Tuthill, who noted that if she loses the race, the ward would once again be represented by a new face without the seniority to chair a committee. At the end of the night, Tuthill walked away with 36 of the 67 delegates.

It sounds simple, but these are Minneapolis DFLers.

By 7:30 p.m., they had completed eight of 12 items on the required DFL agenda and were ready to select delegates. The instructions to the crowd were simple: “If you want to be a delegate, raise your hand.”

That produced the required 67 volunteers but was not in compliance with the DFL’s gender equity requirement.

There were too many men. And there were those 17 letters from other Wedge residents who wanted to be delegates but were unable to attend the precinct caucus. What to do with them?

To make things easier, or perhaps to illustrate the problem, caucus officials moved the wannabe women delegates to one side of the room and the men to another. They then asked if any of the men would volunteer to be alternates instead. No one budged.

“It’s kind of sunk in we’ve got a mess here,” said one of the men.

At this point, there was some discussion about gender equity being unfair because it ignores racial and ethnic status. It was an argument that, while interesting, was not going anywhere because the DFL Party rules require gender equity. The delegation must be half male, half female.

“I’m having serious thoughts about why I want to be here,” said one wanna-be delegate.

One option was to send a delegation that was not in compliance with the equity requirement to the ward convention and let the Credentials Committee or the Rules Committee there decide who is and isn’t a delegate. But no one seemed interested in that risky proposal. And still none of the men were willing to change their status from delegate to alternate.

Then came the suggestion of a walking sub-caucus,  a process that was popular with DFLers in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It was designed to give strength to minority delegates or delegates who championed candidates or issues without large numbers of supporters.

The process starts with people walking to a designated location to support a candidate or cause. The idea is to get as many people as possible in your group by accepting smaller groups in search of strength that comes with large numbers.

At times, it can become goofy. The Save the Whales group merges with the Wind Power group that then joins the Smith for Mayor group and suddenly Smith has more delegates. But Smith also has some commitment to Whales and Wind that might not have been part of the campaign platform.

This can also take a lot of time, and at this point, time was running out on the Wedge folks. They had the classroom until 9 p.m. which gave them 20 minutes to get the job done.

Steven Prince, self-described parliamentarian and sergeant-at-arms, assigned room corners and hallway space to supporters of the council candidates.

At that point, a large group declared themselves to be the “I love the Wedge-Undecided” caucus. Bender and Tuthill each had a crowd, with a few Killian and Bradley supporters looking lonely in their assigned corners.

And then there was the merger. The “I love the Wedge-Undecided” group joined the Tuthill group, and it was all over but the final counting.

They finished the night with 32 female delegates and 35 male delegates, which is compliant with the DFL gender-equity requirement because it is the product of a walking sub-caucus.

That took three hours. They were not out of the room by 9 p.m. And they still had to deal with those letters from would-be delegates. But they were smiling. Everyone seemed to think they had won something.

That was just one of nine precincts that will assemble, back at Jefferson School, the morning of April 27 to see if they can give DFL endorsement to one of the four candidates in the race for City Council.

Do not rule out the return of walking sub-caucuses at the ward convention.

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Comments (8)

Much less controversy in 10-7, 10-8, and 10-9

Thanks for reporting on such an intensely local, yet important issue. Precincts 7, 8, and 9 of the same Ward 10 met over at Whittier Elementary and the turnout was excellent. Two of the precincts had exactly the number of interested parties as allotted delegate seats. Everyone who showed up (or submitted a letter) became a delegate to the Ward 10 convention. No one had to identify which candidate(s) they were supporting. After taking a 15-minute break at 8:00, the crowd had dwindled to the point where everyone in Precincts 8 & 9 that wanted to be a delegate to the citywide (mayoral) convention was allowed to do so. Only Precinct 7 had to do any subcaucusing for the city convention.

Interesting that Killian and Bradley had such little visible support. Over in Whittier, which previously was not part of Ward 10 until redistricting, there were plenty of t-shirts, stickers, and buttons representing all three challengers. I did not spot any obvious Tuthill supporters.

The convention on Saturday, April 27th should be quite a show. If 3 (or maybe even 2) challengers can come together, they could walk away with the endorsement. I'm afraid that if all three challengers insist on staying in the race, there will be no endorsement and Meg Tuthill will have a huge advantage as the incumbent. If one thing is clear it is that Meg Tuthill does not deserve another term on the City Council.

Minneapolis 2013 Precinct Caucuses

I attended my precinct caucus last night in 10-9 and was pleased to see such a large turnout in as the author mentions in her article a complex and competitive process. Many of the individuals in the newest part of the 10th Ward, Whittier were newcomers to the process and eager to learn how the DFL endorsement process works. Ms. Boros has a long history of reportage of grassroots politics and surely knows that a longstanding part of the precinct caucus endorsement and convention system involves issues as well as candidates and that the introduction, debate and passage of resolutions start at the precinct level and shall move forward to the Ward and City Convention level. Therefore, I was shocked to hear my precinct caucus convenor announce that no resolutions would be entertained at the precinct level. I, as well as other individuals had resolutions ready to introduce but that did not happen. After consulting with friends in other precincts I learned that all precinct caucus convenors were instructed not to entertain or accept resolutions. A critical part of the DFL endorsement process seems to have been pre-empted. The resolution process leads to the adoption of a platform and of vetting and awarding candidates party support. Someone needs to ask Dan McConnell the Chair of the Minneapolis DFL and the Director of the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades why precinct convenors were instructed not to entertain resolutions at the precinct caucuses on April 16. Unless, of course the DFL endorsement no longer means the "D-emocrat and the"F-armer and is only the "L-abor" endorsement. Be It Resolved that Viking Stadium stands for:

V-eiled
I-nterests
K-ill
I-nput
N-eeded for
G-rassroots support

S-ecret
T-radeoffs
A-re
D-one
I-n
U-nderhanded
M-eans

No City Platform

There is no Minneapolis City DFL platform so there was no place for resolutions to go. Passing a resolution at a precint caucus is a pretty meaningless exercise since that resolution cannot go forward for possible inclusion into the state party platform.

Blerg

We weren't lonely. We have very nice neighbors.

DFL Gender Equity Rules

The DFL Gender Equity Rules are completely absurd. What this creates is a situation where you are forced to vote for delegates who you disagree with just so that you meet the rules. This is completely undemocratic.

These rules may have served a purpose many years ago when women were underrepresented in the political process, but these days are long passed.

Gender Equity

Are women not still under-represented in the political process? Last I looked, we are at far fewer than 50% of elected officials being female, and most caucuses that I've ever went to have had more men than women trying to be delegates. A walking subcaucus can help make sure that you are only voting for people that support the same candidate you do.

As for the point in the article where someone asked about why delegations aren't also balanced by race and other factors, there is a pretty simple explanation. Except for in extreme cases, gender is more normally distributed across geography than other groups. So to be fair, each precinct would have to have a separately calculated division on race, or sexual orientation, or on religion, or on whatever other divisions could be chosen. Then, because one person could be both a racial minority and say LGBT, you get into situation where that person fills two needs but only one spot. Instead of this, before each instance of voting attendees are reminded that as a party the DFL seeks to empower people of underrepresented communities and to keep this in your thoughts when you vote.

Subcaucusing is only to elect delegates

Contrary to the last line of the article you can, in fact, completely rule out walking subcaucuses at the ward convention. That process is only for electing delegates, and no delegates will be elected for anything at the ward or city conventions.

This was my precinct caucus,

This was my precinct caucus, and I have a correction. Myself and at least one of the other men dropped out of the delegate race in order to provide gender balance and to avoid walking subcaucuses. The idea was to draw the appropriate number of women from the hopefuls who had written letters. As I recall, we needed four more men to drop out, and nobody else would, creating the need for a walking subcaucus.