Intraparty DFL squabbles add drama to Minneapolis city council races

Minneapolis ranks, at least according to this study, as the 9th most liberal city in America. Politics in the city are dominated by the local branch of the Democratic party (Democratic-Farmer-Labor, or DFL, in Minnesota).

The last Republican elected mayor of Minneapolis left office in 1961. The last Republican to serve on the city council left office more recently, but still decades ago.

In a textbook example of the narcissism of small differences, the politics of one-party Minneapolis are still competitive and bitter.

All thirteen seats (wards) on the Minneapolis City Council will be on the ballot this November.

The window for candidate filings opened on August 1 and closed yesterday, the 15. The filings show some cracks in the solid blue Democratic wall. The divide is not between blue and red, as in the rest of America, but between blue and bluer.

Because the city uses ranked-choice voting (RCV) to select winners, there will be no party primary election. All candidates who filed will appear together on the November ballot.

In eight of the thirteen wards, more than two candidates filed, meaning that these races will be decided by the RCV process.

Incumbents from 11 of the 13 wards have filed for re-election.

Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) and Andrew Johnson (Ward 12), both long-time members, did not run again this year.

Only Robin Wonsley, the incumbent member for Ward 2, is running unopposed. She filed for re-election as a Democratic Socialist (DSA).

The dominant Minneapolis DFL party endorsed candidates for 9 of the 13 wards. They endorsed the candidacies of seven of the eleven members running for re-election.

The local chapter of the upstart Democrat Socialists of America (TC DSA) had their own endorsing process for the Minneapolis City Council, endorsing five candidates this year.

Here is a breakdown of all 13 races.

In Wards 1, 3, and 4, the DFL is endorsing the incumbents.

In Ward 1, Elliot Payne is running for re-election against a Socialist Workers Party candidate. I am not making this up.

The DFL did not endorse Wonsley, the Ward 2 Democratic Socialist running unopposed.

In Ward 3, Michael Rainville is running against an independent candidate.

In Ward 4, LaTrisha Vetaw is running against a fellow Democrat, a Republican, and an independent candidate.

In Ward 5, no DFL endorsing convention ever took place. The incumbent, Jeremiah Ellison (son of the state Attorney General Keith Ellison), and his two challengers, all filed as Democrats.

In Ward 6, the DFL endorsing convention was eventually abandoned after multiple failed attempts to convene. The incumbent, Jamal Osman, and two of his challengers, filed as Democrats. A third challenger filed as a Republican.

In the open Ward 7 contest, all three candidates filed as Democrats. There was neither a DFL nor a DSA endorsement in this race.

In Ward 8, both the DFL and DSA are backing the challenger Soren Stevenson over the incumbent Andrea Jenkins, who is also serving as council president this term. Stevenson, Jenkins, and a third candidate filed as Democrats. A fourth candidate filed as a Republican.

Stevenson sued and won a $2.4 million settlement with the city for injuries he received during the 2020 George Floyd riots.

In Ward 9, the DFL and DSA both endorsed the incumbent Jason Chavez. He filed as a Democrat and faces an Independant challenger.

In Ward 10, Aisha Chughtai is the incumbent and DFL/DSA endorsed candidate, taking on three challengers. You may recall the fisticuffs between factions that occurred at the DFL convention in this ward.

In Ward 11, the DFL has endorsed the incumbent, Emily Koski. She also faces a candidate from the Socialist Workers Party.

In the open Ward 12, the DFL, the DSA, and the retiring incumbent, have gotten behind Aurin Chowdhury. All three candidates for this ward filed as Democrats.

And finally, in Ward 13, the DFL is endorsing the incumbent, Linea Palmisano, in a four-candidate field.

To recap: there are four candidates running with the endorsements of both the DFL and the DSA.

In additional to running and endorsing candidates, the TC DSA also dabbles in campaign finance. It has its own registered PAC, which recently donated $5,000 to the newly-formed PAC, Minneapolis for the Many.

Minneapolis for the Many reports receiving a second $5,000 donation, from an individual donor.

Minneapolis for the Many just launched on the Twitter (X) platform, with a thread boasting of its support for five candidates. MN Reformer’s Deena Winter points out on Twitter that the group appears to be designed as a counter to the business-backed independent expenditure fund All of MPLS.

The Many are backing the unendorsed Ellison (Ward 5), the unendorsed Katie Cashman (Ward 7), and the jointly DFL/DSA endorsed Stevenson (Ward 8), Chughtai (Ward 10), and Chowdhury (Ward 12).

The Many reposted a supportive tweet from Minneapolis DFL Vice Chair Mike Norton,

“Conservative”? You will recall that the current lineup of the Minneapolis City Council includes 12 Democrats and one socialist.

If you are wondering who counts as a “conservative” on the council, Norton points to this Minnpost article from May, which analyzes 2023 voting patterns on the council. Minnpost identifies (in their words) a “more-moderate” group including Rainville, Vetah, the retiring Goodman, along with Koski, and Palmisano.

Minnpost identifies a “more-liberal” group of four including Payne, Wonsley, Chavez, and Chunghtai.

So, the merely liberal council president Jenkins, a transgendered African-American, along with Osman, have been (downgraded?, promoted?) reassigned to “conservative” to give the more leftist elements in Minneapolis a viable enemy.

They say that you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, so here you go:

(MinnPost has updated their analysis of voting records here.)

The leftist dark money operation Faith in Minnesota reports spending money in 2023 on behalf of Cashman, Chughtai, and Stevenson.

Case in point was today’s vote on the Uber/Lyft minimum pay bill. As reported by the Star Tribune,

Council members Elliott Payne, Robin Wonsley, Jamal Osman, Andrea Jenkins, Jason Chavez, Aisha Chughtai and Jeremiah Ellison voted in favor of the ordinance, while council members Michael Rainville, LaTrisha Vetaw, Emily Koski, Andrew Johnson and Linea Palmisano voted no. Council Member Lisa Goodman was absent for the vote.

A potential “progressive” majority coalition in 2024 could include the DFL’s Payne, the DSA’s Wonsley, The Many’s Ellison and Cashman, along with the DFL/DSA’s Stevenson, Chavez, Chughtai, and Chowdhury. Assuming, of course, that one or more of these candidates don’t fall out of favor with the ever-fickle Minneapolis left.

Let the games begin!