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War of words continues in Minneapolis' Ward 6 council race after Noor skips DFL endorsement convention

More than 250 attended the Ward 6 DFL endorsing convention
MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi
More than 250 attended the Ward 6 DFL endorsing convention held at Northeast Middle School on Saturday.

Chaos.

That used to be a common description for most endorsement processes involving Somali-American politicians running for political seats in Minneapolis.

But on Saturday, when City Council Member Abdi Warsame won the DFL endorsement in his bid for re-election in Ward 6, participants and observers at the convention — which drew more than 250 people to Northeast Middle School — were using different terms to talk about the event.

Minneapolis DFL Chair Dan McConnell, who ran the convention, described it as a “good event.” For Warsame, it was “beautiful.” And for other convention-goers, it was “peaceful” and “drama-free” — the “best” such event the Somali-dominated 6th Ward has seen in many years.

The convention was also shorter and less tense than previous events that drew high numbers of Somali-American voters.

So what was different?

Mohamud Noor, Warsame’s chief opponent, didn’t show up — which meant his loyal supporters also stayed away. That decision, which Noor announced a day before the event, came as a surprise to many who have been closely watching the contentious race, which has become personal for both the candidates and their supporters.

And now, people are taking issues with some of the words Noor used in his announcement to drop out of the DFL endorsing convention process — which he called a “potential safety risk for participants.”

‘Outlandish statements’

In the pouring rain on Saturday morning, Warsame’s campaign volunteers deployed hundreds of supporters and delegates — most of them older men and women — in SUVs and Toyota Camrys to Northeast Middle School.

By 9:30 a.m., hours before the scheduled start-time of the endorsement process, they packed the cafeteria as they talked about Noor’s absence over breakfast.

Kadir Abulle, a Warsame volunteer who wore one of the campaign's neon green T-shirts, seemed mystified about Noor’s statement — which he said was an insult to the community that supported him in previous elections. “It’s unfortunate that Noor made that statement and I was so surprised,” Abdulle said. “Now, he lost the confidence of our community.”

Warsame, not surprisingly, also took a shot at his opponent for making remarks that he said tarnish the Somali-American community’s already tainted reputation, given recent reports of intimidation at caucus events and voting booths.

Abdi Warsame
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Abdi Warsame: “It’s very unfortunate that an individual like our opponent would throw his whole community under the bus … because of his own personal ambitions.”

“When [they’re] losing, people make outlandish statements,” Warsame said in an interview with MinnPost. “It’s very unfortunate that an individual like our opponent would throw his whole community under the bus … because of his own personal ambitions.”

In an impassioned speech at the convention, Warsame alluded to Noor’s announcement that raised concerns about potential violence among the supporters of the two candidates. “They said there will be a fight if they come,” Warsame said in Somali to the crowd of supporters, who erupted in cheers throughout his speech. “Do you see people fighting here?”

‘There would have been a fight’

Noor, on the other hand, said it would have been a different story if his people had met in the same room as his opponent’s supporters. “If people would have shown up, there would have been frictions,” he said in an interview. “There would have been a fight for delegates, and the system to guide us is not in place.”

Noor doesn’t talk about the Saturday convention without talking about the results of the April 4 precinct caucus at Brian Coyle Center, where hundreds of people crammed into the gymnasium — and where the fire department eventually relocated the process outside for safety reasons.

Caucuses aren’t set up to hold 800 people, McConnell said. They’re typically small neighborhood meetings, where a couple dozen people get appointed to serve as delegates.

Because the caucus was disorganized and chaotic, Noor says, there was no registration from some of the precincts in Ward 6. Therefore, there were no delegate credentials from the caucus.

Mohamud Noor
MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi
Mohamud Noor

“We challenge the whole process,” said Noor, speaking about one of the reasons he dropped out of the DFL nomination. “The precondition of having a convention is to have a proper caucus, where people are elected based on the bylaws and the constitution of the DFL. If that is not met, then it invalidates the list of names of the individuals who are delegates.”

Another reason Noor stayed out of the convention, he said, was to protect not only the safety of the participants but also the “dignity” of the Somali-American residents in the Ward, a community that has often fallen prey to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim bloggers.

“The recipe of failure is to have people who are going to be in loggerheads and then blame the Somali community,” he said. “I will not take that blame. I have to protect the dignity of the community.”

Less than expected

It was all rather anti-climactic after the lead-up. After the chaotic April 4 precinct caucus night, which led to protests over the arrangements and the fairness of the count, the Minneapolis DFL struggled to resolve ongoing challenges and the ward convention was postponed — twice — over concerns about the safety and security of the proceedings.

The event was finally scheduled for Saturday at a site outside the ward. Even then, the party brought in lots of volunteers to help run the sign-in and hired private security to keep order.

By the time the event actually happened, though, Noor had announced that he wouldn’t take part. That left the room to Warsame. After a photo of the convention floor was tweeted, state Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Noor supporter, questioned whether it represented the ward.

Omar had also been one of the signatories to an online petition calling for the Ward 6 convention planning committee to cancel the event.

“We cannot in good faith ask our neighbors in Ward 6 to participate in a convention that ignores and minimizes the mistakes made on and leading up to April 4th,” the petition stated. “The problems of April 4th are not easy fixes, and based on the events of that day, we cannot ensure the resources exist for a safe and orderly convention setting.”

The Minneapolis DFL had its own misgivings about the convention. McDonnell told delegates the credentials committee reviewed and rejected nearly all of the delegate challenges. It did however, send one challenge to the convention floor with a positive recommendation. That challenge, from Noor himself, asked that the delegation from precinct 6-3 not be seated, that the convention not endorse in the Ward 6 city council race, and the convention itself be canceled.

McConnell noted that the request to cancel the event ran counter to DFL rules. But he said an examination of the caucus night events left the party less than confident that support for the candidates, especially Noor, was accurate.

“They made the best guess they could,” McConnell said. The actual delegates to the ward convention weren’t elected at the caucus but were chosen by the campaigns after the party decided on the allocations of precinct delegates. And the precinct itselt did not elect any delegates to the city convention July 8. That task instead fell to the precinct’s delegates to the ward convention.

But with mostly Warsame delegates voting, all of the challenges were rejected, the delegates from precinct 6-3 were seated and the convention proceeded as something akin to a Warsame rally.

At one point, a motion was made to endorse the incumbent by acclamation: that is, by delegates raising their credentials rather than conducting a time-consuming paper ballot. But the Warsame campaign wanted an official paper ballot vote to head off further challenges of the convention’s legitimacy. The convention also decided not to waive a question-and-answer period for candidates, even though Warsame was the only candidate in the auditorium.

That left Warsame open to a question from a delegate who said she was a lesbian and recalled that in 2013, when he first ran, he said he opposed same-sex marriage.

“I said, as a practicing Muslim, I believe that marriage is between a man and woman. And I would say that again,” Warsame said. “However, I would also say, that this is the law of the land. I was never against the law of the land and I’m not against consenting adults getting married. And I’m not against your marriage.”

When the vote was finally announced, there were 244 votes for Warsame, 11 for Noor and none for a third candidate, Tiffini Flynn Forslund.

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Comments (3)

It will be interesting

It will be interesting to learn how effective a DFL endorsement will be in Ward 6 now with one candidate eschewing it and the endorsee having to run on his record; if a third candidate appears on the ballot, endorsement may not help much. Noor will still have to wear out some shoes for a chance to win, but the Minneapolis DFL may have to start rethinking some things in November in any event.

Precinct caucus disarray

The description of this convention sounds closer to the DFL senate district conventions I've attended rather than the precinct caucuses. The problems here seem to have been rooted in poor planning and weak leadership of the precinct caucuses held on April 4. It's implied in the article that there was only one precinct caucus at the Brian Doyle Center and that 800 people came to participate in it and could not be accommodated because the location was too small. I would expect that there would have been multiple precinct caucuses held at different locations. So, it's possible Noor and his supporters have a legitimate grievance against the endorsement process.

But the DFL at the local level is nothing more than the people who show up at caucuses and volunteer to act as conveners to allow the election of officers and others at the precinct level. The "Minneapolis DFL" , i.e. its permanent and paid staff, bears some responsibility if this failed to happen, but so would the precinct level officers and members of the DFL if it exists. These positions are unpaid and filled, if at all, presumably by people who want to be involved. Getting people to do this is often a problem anywhere in Minnesota. This article makes me wonder if there even is such an organization in this part of Minneapolis.If not, there's some work to be done in building the party organization.

Packing is traditional.

But chaos and actual violence are not. the DFL is riding a tiger now and the endorsement process
is too flimsy by far. Ranked choice voting will decide this contest.