The DFL Party is going to select its Chair on Saturday in Hinckley, the site of the Great Fire in 1894, Toby’s the home of delicious caramel rolls, and Grand Casino. There delegates have a clear choice between two different administrations, the current one, which has successfully raised money and kept the party out of debt, though the election victories have not proven to be favorable and one marked with a sizeable debt, a party in disarray and a sense the party was ineffective rather than supportive.
Chair Ken Martin faces off against former Vice-Chair Donna Cassutt. Martin is a product of the DFL Party, he was the former chair of the youth arm of the party, the MYDFL, headed up the Minnesota Gore/Lieberman Presidential campaign in 2000, worked on behalf of candidates: David Lillehaug for US Senate 1998, Buck Humphrey for Secretary of State in 2002, and ran the Mike Hatch for Governor campaign in 2004. In addition, he has worked outside the party with WIN Minnesota, which helped deliver funding for the Legacy Amendment. He is well-seasoned with political experience and fundraising abilities.
Cassutt on-the-other hand is marked by her connection to a DFL Party, which provided little support to candidates due to its inability of party chair Brian Melendez, to raise money. The Melendez/Cassutt administration left the party with over $700,000 in debt, a DFL Party building where the staff were responsible for cleaning the facility because they could afford a professional service. At the time, the reality is the party claimed false credit for candidate successes i.e. Al Frank for US Senate 2000, when the Franken Campaign operated largely on its own. One laughable point on her Facebook page Cassutt highlights the election of a DFL Governor in in 2010, this is after the party depleted its resources in the primary supporting Margaret Anderson Kelliher against Mark Dayton. It is clear if Dayton didn’t self-finance there would have been no money available for the campaign. It is also worth noting, the DFL Vice Chair was her first DFL connection, she was the result of an outreach effort by Melendez to third party groups and identified earlier with the Green Party.
The DFL Party in 2016, we as effected by the fight between Secretary Hillary Clinton (D) and US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as any other state. The national delegate selection favored Sanders by nearly two to one, and some would think that support would carry over into this contest, but we doubt it. The decision-making body is the DFL state Central Committee and those delegates are chosen at the Senate/County Unit Conventions. While the Sanders campaign was concerned about electing more national delegates, they failed to pay attention to the internal party positions that make up the bulk of the DFL Party.
Now we understand Cassutt has garnered support from some in the Sanders faction, but as is evident in the unified support for Congressman Keith Ellison’s (D-05MN) bid for DNC Chair, the issues leading into the 2016 Presidential nomination are in the past. In the era of Donald J Trump, Democrats nationwide and DFLers in specific need to consolidate, find opportunities and attempt to erode popular support by highlighting the failings of the party in power.
Martin has another feather in his cap. He was selected as the Chair of the Association of State Democratic Chairs at the DNC meeting last week in Atlanta.