Minnesota Politics

When people lose a DFL endorsement fight they often make claims against the process, shenanigans, or inappropriate actions by their opponents to propel them into a primary contest, especially incumbents. On Friday, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Jeff Hayden (DFL-62, Minneapolis) lost endorsement by 72.4% to Omar Fateh (DFL-62, Minneapolis) on the first ballot. Rep Raymond Dehn (DFL-59B, Minneapolis lost to Esther Agbaje (DFL-59A, Minneapolis) on the third ballot. On Saturday, Sen Erik Simonson (DFL-07, Duluth) lost to Jennifer McEwen (DFL-07, Duluth) by 70.35% also on the first ballot.

If a primary fight ensues it will be interesting to see how much support the incumbents receive from their caucus. On the senate side now that the leadership has changed Sen Tom Bakk (DFL-03, Cook) to Sen Susan Kent (DFL-53, Woodbury) it will be interesting to see what signal is sent. As an existing member of the legislative body, an incumbent has a relationship not just with their constituency, but also their respective caucus. As a dues paying member this affords them access to tools usually reserved for party favored candidates, but the situation gets sketchy when as a caucus member you fail to find favor with the party activists in your constituency.

Hayden and Simonson had close ties to Bakk. Hayden faces a changing district and the increase in the Somali voting bloc. Fateh is proposing a far more aggressive left-leaning agenda. Simonson is guilty of seeking another position when he sought an appointment to the Public Utilities Commission, and he is not seen as progressive as his district and hence the reason for his loss. In Dehn’s case he has been conscious of the fact the demographics are changing and he as a Caucasian male do not match up. It’s clear with his 2nd place bid for Minneapolis Mayor showed he also sought another opportunity, which may have cost him.

It maybe time for a step back into Minnesota senate elections history.

Those with more than thirty years in DFL politics will likely remember the Sen Don Frank (DFL-Fridley) and Don Betzold (DFL-Fridley) endorsement fight of 1992. Betzold challenged Frank In 1990, during the stub election and secured the DFL endorsement largely on their differences on abortion, Betzold (pro-choice) and Frank (anti-choice), but lost to Frank in the primary. At the time he contended the DFL Caucus supported Frank, when they should not have, but in this case Frank as the incumbent and a member of the DFL Caucus, while Betzold was not. This changed in 1992, when Betzold beat Frank in the Primary and much pressure was applied to keep the DFL Caucus out of the fight.