Alondra Cano endorsed in the 9th Ward

Alondra CanoBY DAVID TILSEN

I decided to help Alondra Cano in her re-election campaign this year because she stepped up when I asked her to help with trying to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. I tend to be in solidarity with people who are in solidarity with me, and Council Member Cano has shown herself to be a trustworthy leader and ally. It looked like she was going to face a real race. Former 9th Ward Council Member Gary Schiff, who had vacated his seat to run for mayor four years ago, wanted his seat back, and Mohamed Farah, a smart representative of the organized Somali community, had also entered the race for the DFL endorsement. The word on the street was that the powers downtown wanted Schiff back and were willing to fund him well and were not above using Farah if it came to that. I told Cano that I would help. She asked me to serve on the Credentials Committee for the 9th Ward Endorsing Convention.
After the precinct caucuses Alondra had about 51% of the delegates, Farah about 35%, Schiff only about 4%, with the remainder, that is, 11%, calling themselves uncommitted. One problem was that none of the precincts elected members to the ward committees. When I asked the convener about it in my caucus, I was told it was not on the agenda he was given. I was told later by the ward chair that it was, anyway this became a problem.
In the absence of committees being formed in the usual way, each of the three campaigns were asked to send three people to the Rules Committee and three people to the Credentials Committee.  Although Cano had probably more than 50% of the delegate votes, her campaign was outvoted two to one on the committees by the coordinated Schiff and Farah campaigns. And their motivation was to stop Cano from getting the endorsement.
At the first Credentials meeting, the other campaigns expressed shock that there was a deadline and that Cano had filed any challenges. Former Council Member Tony Scallon was one of Farah’s representatives, and Schiff represented his own campaign. I don’t think inexperience can be claimed. We agreed that we would be cordial, not antagonistic, and accept challenges past the deadline. We also agreed to have two co-chairs, one from the Cano campaign, one from the Farah campaign. The Schiff campaign did not have a candidate at that meeting.
Several days later Mohamed Farah and Gary Schiff were on television accusing us of Jim Crow tactics, of bad faith and of trying to make the ward convention “more white.” On the same day, the Farah campaign copied the Cano challenges that they complained about and filed them with the Party, although we did not get copies for several more days. The next few days were a circus, with news cameras and Gary Schiff and former Council Member Tony Scallon attending the next meeting claiming we acted like “officials in Mississippi.” Lots of work was done by Cano volunteers verifying addresses. Tony later apologized to me in a private email. We learned that the same evening the Schiff and Farah members of the Rules Committee outvoted the Cano members 6 to 3 to change the rules to: 1) Eliminate the drop-out rule; 2) Eliminate the Q&A period; 3. Have the convention adjourn after four ballots or 3 p.m. This seemed to us to be a disaster and we had a lot of meetings about if we could afford the time to have a floor fight on the rules to change this. We believed that the Schiff and Farah forces wanted no endorsement since they could never have enough support to get to 60%, and that a long convention and attrition favored them. On the other hand delay also favored them if we had to adjourn at 3 p.m. We eventually decided we needed to amend the 3 p.m. time.
Then the printed rules from the Rules Committee came out and we read them. It didn’t say what the committee members told us it said, or apparently what they thought it said.  The rules said that we could not adjourn before four ballots or 3 p.m. This was fine with us. No floor fight.
The day of the convention at South High, after registration Cano was within spitting distance of 60%—our count was about 57%.  We just needed to get to a ballot before our people left. The Farah and Schiff forces were going to delay, delay, delay. They decided to try to reinstate the Q&A they had eliminated in the Rules Committee, both to delay the convention fighting about it and to delay the convention having the Q&A. They delayed about people in the bathroom, they asked to have secret ballots, they questioned translations, they confused instructions.
A particularly dramatic moment was when Ilhan Omar, the only Somali legislator in Minnesota, gave a rousing endorsement of Alondra Cano.
Finally we had the first ballot about noon—about 57% Cano, 35% Farah, 4% Schiff, 1% no endorsement.
We had a second ballot—about 57% Cano, 36% Farah, 3% Schiff, 2% no endorsement.
It was now three o’clock.  A motion was made to adjourn, three speakers “for” and three speakers “against.” The speakers “for” were generally surprised that we had to vote at all. They had been informed that the rules said that we had to adjourn at 3 p.m. Many times the chair read the rules to them, the rules that the Schiff and Farah campaigns had pushed through the Rules Committee, and then had been passed by the convention that morning. Everyone had a copy of those rules. The Schiff and Farah campaigns said that by not adjourning we were disrespecting the Rules Committee, the convention and the DFL.  The convention voted to not adjourn.
We had a third ballot with 57.88% for Cano.
Another motion to adjourn.
Things were very tense.  I gave a very stirring speech urging people to stay and endorse.
On the fourth ballot Cano had 59.7%, only three votes away from endorsement.
Farah called for all his people to walk out.  They did, and the Schiff people left, too.  This left about 58% of the original delegates, way over the 50% required for a quorum.  Almost 100% of those left supported Cano.  She was endorsed by acclamation.  The convention adjourned.
I have been part of more contested races, better fought races and longer conventions, but I think this one felt the closest to home.  I came to like and respect some of the people I worked with in the Farah, Schiff and Cano campaigns.  I hope we become friends.
The so-called experts made mistake after mistake. Ken Vreeland, the chair of the Rules Committee sent the wrong rules to Al Veldey, the chair of the 9th Ward. Many experienced politicians, including two former 9th Ward council members, did not bother to challenge the rules before they were adopted by the convention and never challenged the correct rulings of the chair. They misinformed their community. Why did they make these mistakes? Incompetence? No, I don’t think so. Laziness? Partially, but mostly I think lack of respect. Lack of respect for all of us, their allies, opponents, but most of all their constituents, neighbors and the 9th Ward residents. Now they have filed a meritless challenge with the state DFL, that serves only to allow them to complain, try to degrade the endorsement and embarrass themselves. This kind of behavior was evident when Schiff and Scallon were in office and was more evident in this race.  Farah allied with the wrong candidate.

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