Hinckley, MN – Incumbent DFL chair Ken Martin defeated former DFL associate chair Donna Cassutt at the DFL Business Convention on Saturday.
“One of the reasons we lost in greater Minnesota is because we didn’t have a message that was resonating with voters,” Martin said, “Our candidate’s message last year was ‘Stop Trump,” his message was, “Make America great again.’”
Martin was first elected chair of the DFL in 2011, and (has) served three two-year terms. Prior to being chair he served on a number of campaigns including the Gore/Lieberman presidential campaign in Minnesota, the John Kerry presidential campaign in 2004, and as chair of Governor Mark Dayton’s recount effort in 2010.
Martin, who was endorsed by Congressman Keith Ellison, took President Donald Trump’s victory harder than most.
“I woke up the morning after the election, like so many of you – in shock and bewildered – the loss seemed so profound it was tough to comprehend,” Martin said, “I felt this way after my friend and mentor Paul Wellstone’s death in 2002. Feeling uncertain about the future, not sure that politics would ever be the same.”
Martin sniped at Cassutt during the question and answer portion of the race for DFL Chair. He also accused her of having supported candidates the DFL had not endorsed, a charge that Cassutt objected to.
“I have always supported the endorsed candidates,” Cassutt said, “I think Ken referred to that since I left my position as the DFL state associate chair there was a candidate that through my work we were organizing with. My employer endorsed this candidate. I was invited by my employers to contribute money to this candidate, which I did. I’m not certain if (the DFL) had an endorsed candidate at that time.”
Cassutt served as associate chair of the DFL from 2005 to 2011. Since then she has been the Executive Director of Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, a coalition of labor, faith, and community-based organizations focused on economic, racial, and social justice issues.
Criticism of Wisconsin and Governor Scott Walker was a popular theme of mobilization throughout the conference. Numerous speakers warned that Minnesota would become “just like Wisconsin” if the DFL lost the 2018 governor’s race.
A third candidate, Bill Hamm, nominated himself from the floor simply in order to give a speech chastising Minnesota for being “one of the ten most racist states.” At the conclusion of his speech he withdrew and endorsed Cassutt.
“Now is the time for us as DFLers to come together, to truly come together,” Martin said, “Each day that we let go by without us organizing for this next election cycle is one day we don’t get back.”