DFL conventions – Ward 12 and Ward 10

Ward 10 DFL convention (Photo/Twitter WedgeLive)


I am a member of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and I have been since 1986. In DSA, we like to debate something called the Dirty Break. This is premised on the decades of tension between the Democratic Party and the left outsiders, with the leftists within the party being the battle line. Within DSA, which is not a party, there is no ideological “discipline.” There are Minnesota DSA folks who will have nothing to do with the DFL, there are those who like the idea of destroying it and building a socialist party on its smoking foundations, and there are those who work, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and loyalty, with and within the DFL. The Dirty Break is shorthand for “stop pissing around and leave the DFL.”
I am also a member of the Democratic Socialist Caucus. This group is not affiliated with either DSA or the DFL Party. It is an independent PAC of DFL members and activists who believe democratic socialism is the most viable future of the party. I honestly feel like that’s pretty utopian, put that way, but in practical terms, for me and other members of DSC, it means we agree to organize only within the DFL and to give it, for now, loyalty and a heck of a lot of volunteer hours. And money, of course. My feelings about the Dirty Break? It might happen, it might even be for the best, but I don’t consider it to be a valid strategy.
I attended the in-person Ward 12 DFL convention as a delegate from an in-person precinct caucus. The convention was on Saturday, April 29, at Roosevelt High School, and I was late. When I found my precinct and secured an aisle seat, they were in the process of debating “the minority report.” Not the action film, but an actual report from the minority on the ward convention rules committee. I had been prepped for this, which is a good thing, because if I had had to listen closely I would have been out of luck. Acoustics were abysmal. Former State Rep. Jim Davnie was giving the report. A good sign, I thought.
Ward 12 had four candidates vying for endorsement to run for the seat being vacated by Council Member Andrew Johnson, who is retiring at the end of this year. Luther Ranheim, a nonprofit executive and neighborhood activist, and Nancy Ford, a small business owner and environmental activist, were both candidates (and will be on the ballot in November). They are both white and middle-aged and I don’t recall either of them having any endorsements. Jerome Evans is a known neighborhood activist, a queer, married, African American young man, endorsed by the DFL Senior Caucus and a couple of elected officials.
The front-runner going in was Aurin Chowdhury, who is currently a policy aide to Ward 9 Council Member Jason Chavez. She is a Twin Cities DSA member, and we endorsed her, along with three unions, two DFL caucuses, four advocacy groups, and ten elected officials. (Evans and Chowdhury agreed to abide by the endorsement and the other two did not. Evans has accordingly ended his campaign.) The rules committee had more anti-Chowdhury forces, and with four candidates, they wanted to use the old DFL playbook where you want to end the balloting early and prevent endorsement because your favored candidate doesn’t have a chance. Thus the “minority report.” This was an alternate rules document that returned to the usual practice of five ballots before a motion to adjourn was in order. The debate was intense, and kind of dirty. In the end, the minority report won out and was adopted – the first sign that Chowdhury’s support levels may have been underestimated.
The second sign was in the candidate speeches. Two candidates pretty much walked up there alone or with one other person and gave a speech, no demonstration, no signs. Ranheim at least had a fancy video and two speakers, one of which was his spouse. Chowdhury was preceded onto the stage by I am guessing upwards of 50 people in matching T-shirts, with signs and all the trimmings. A proper convention mini-rally.
Originally, I was strapped in for a long slog. But I was beginning to think there wouldn’t be a lot of ballots as I marked and handed in my first one. More arguments about the rules. Pizza in the lobby. A prayer break. The chairperson was in the middle of trying to sort out another complex point of order or something when the head teller came in with results. And it was all over! Aurin Chowdhury won endorsement by a comfortable margin on the first ballot.
On Saturday, May 13, the Minneapolis DFL held the Ward 10 endorsing convention at Ella Baker School. There were only two candidates: incumbent Council Member Aisha Chughtai, who has also been endorsed by Twin Cities DSA, and former MPD Community Safety Officer Nasri Warsame, a relative newcomer to the local electoral scene.
With Chughtai’s side having what appeared to be a comfortable lead in pledged delegates, her campaign probably expected a fairly simple and stress-free convention. However, in hindsight, we can see that the Warsame campaign had an assumption from the start that the DFL deck was stacked against them. They didn’t have the numbers, and they didn’t have familiarity with the system and its rules. Perhaps understandably, at least in the case of the volunteers and supporters, they didn’t assume best intentions from the other side, nor from DFL officials running the show.
The convention was chaotic from the beginning. There were translation issues, with a lot of Warsame’s delegates being Somali elders and not proficient in English, and the DFL local units in the Twin Cities struggling to find enough reliable translators. More than half of the supporters for Warsame were not delegates, but “guests,” in convention terms. This volatile combination meant that there was a lot of misinformation, confusion and mistrust in the air.
After many hours of credential challenges and rules debate, it was time to hear speeches and take the first ballot. Warsame’s team was slated to speak second. As Chughtai’s supporters began to fill the stage to support her during her opening remarks, furious Warsame supporters swarmed the stage and physically confronted Chughtai supporters, leading to pushing, shouting, cursing and eventually some physical assaults. The convention was forced to adjourn. (See the link below to a now-viral video of the outbreak.) The mayhem went on even after adjournment, and both paramedics and police were called, with Chughtai’s campaign team and some delegates taking shelter in a locked room until police could escort them from the building.
The chair of the DFL called an emergency meeting of the DFL State Executive Committee (SEC) to consider its response and how to move forward on the endorsement question. Two bylaw amendments were proposed, debated and passed that would allow the SEC to ban persons whom they deem to have violently disrupted the process for seeking endorsement, effectively an expulsion from the party. The SEC then provisionally banned Warsame from seeking DFL endorsement, which will have the effect of eliminating Chughtai’s only opposition for DFL endorsement if it stands. The DFL State Central Committee (SCC) will now vote on the two amendments and whether to sustain the banning of Warsame.
Whether the bylaws pass or not, it is unclear what the endorsement outcome will be at this point, as it could be Chughtai being endorsed or no endorsement, and that could (and most likely will) happen through a reconvened convention. It’s widely believed by observers that Chughtai had the necessary 60% threshold and more.
A third bylaw amendment was proposed at that SEC meeting. This one, called “Amendment 3” in the press coverage (which has been extensive) would bar members of other organizations that make endorsements prior to these conventions from volunteering at these events. The SEC was quite divided along ideological lines on this proposal, since both Twin Cities DSA and the DSC (which currently does not endorse candidates), were implicated by the Warsame campaign’s accusation of partiality.
The proposed bylaw amendment was referred to the DFL’s Constitution, Bylaws, and Rules Committee (CBRC). DSA members are far more impacted by this than by whether our endorsed candidate is also endorsed by the DFL. And, of course, none of this affects who is on the ballot, although it may impact who voters choose. But if this Amendment 3 makes it into the DFL bylaws, it’s effectively a first step in the DFL calling for a Dirty Break from us. I guess a lot of moderates in the DFL are becoming really scared of socialists, and their increasing popularity with voters.

Addendum – on modern-day red-baiting

Forces within the DFL are definitely using this fear of socialism, especially prevalent in older generations who grew up under hysterical Cold War propaganda, as evidenced in this email I got from Tony Scallon and the Minneapolis DFL Senior Caucus:


“One of the candidates, Aurin Chowdhury, supported defunding police in the past. She has applied for the endorsement of the Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America (TCDSA), a chapter of the national Democratic Socialists of America. In her application for TCDSA endorsement, Chowdhury has agreed to be: ‘… committed to building a “Socialists in Office” committee to coordinate with elected municipal officials and provide organizational support to build socialist power in the Twin Cities.’ She agreed to ‘…oppose increases to the current police budget.’”


Aurin Chowdhury for Ward 12 www.aurinchowdhury.org

Aisha Chughtai for Ward 10 www.aishaforward10.com

Nasri Warsame for Ward 10 nasriwarsame.com

Video of turmoil at Ward 10 convention, from Twitter thread by WedgeLive (John Edwards)


Statement by Aisha Chughtai aishaforward10.com/statements/statement-on-violence-perpetrated-by-nasri-warsame-campaign-at-ward-10-convention

Statement by Nasri Warsame tinyurl.com/28dmu5ek

Statement by Ken Martin, chair of the state DFL dfl.org/press-release/updated-dfl-party-statement-on-ward-10-convention



Certainly one of the biggest shocks of this brief DFL endorsement season was the endorsement of Soren Stevenson over City Council President and African American transgender poet Andrea Jenkins. Stevenson lost an eye during the George Floyd protests as a result of the firing of an MPD blunt force projectile. He won 68% of the votes on the first ballot. “It’s clear that Ward 8 is ready for new leadership to bring about real transformational change,” Stevenson tweeted Saturday afternoon.
The Ward 2 DFL convention did not endorse a candidate – an obvious acknowledgement that incumbent Robin Wonsley, an independent leftist endorsed by DSA, was their best hope for continued progressive representation.
Jason Chavez won endorsement for re-election in Ward 9 by acclamation.

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