Minneapolis DFL Turmoil




On Saturday, May 13, the Minneapolis DFL held their Ward 10 endorsing convention. Like the Ward 12 convention two weeks earlier, this convention was held “in person.” There were only two candidates. One was Council Member Aisha Chughtai, who has been endorsed by Twin Cities DSA, (along with four others for Minneapolis City Council seats as well as two for Saint Paul City Council). Chughtai was elected in 2021, and has been endorsed for re-election by numerous other organizations and elected officials. The other candidate was former MPD Community Safety Officer Nasri Warsame, a relative newcomer to the local electoral scene.

The convention was chaotic almost from the start. 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, who had been there since 8:00 am when registration didn’t open until 9:00 am, were not delegates but were “guests” in convention terms. This volatile combination meant that there was a lot of misinformation, confusion, and mistrust in the air.

With the convention being co-chaired by Samuel Doten, and with what the Minneapolis DFL Chair described as a “dream team” of seasoned volunteers, the first three hours or so were taken up with numerous credentials challenges, motions, and attempts at rule changes. Finally 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 began to swarm the stage and physically confront Chughtai supporters, leading to pushing, shouting, cursing, and eventually some physical assaults. The Convention was becoming unsafe for all participants and it was forced to adjourn. (See this Twitter thread from WedgeLive which includes a now-viral video of the outbreak.) The mayhem went on even after adjournment, and both paramedics and police were called in, with Chughtai’s campaign team and some delegates taking shelter in a locked room until police could escort them from the building. See Aisha’s statement here.

The chair of the DFL, Ken Martin, called an emergency meeting of the DFL State Executive Committee (SEC) to consider its response and how to move forward on the endorsement question. At this meeting, last Thursday, two bylaw amendments were proposed, debated and passed that would allow the SEC to ban parties whom they deem to have violently disrupted the endorsement process from seeking endorsement, effectively an expulsion from the party. The SEC then banned Nasri Warsame from seeking DFL endorsement, which has the effect of eliminating Chughtai’s only opposition for DFL endorsement. Both the bylaw amendments and the banning resulting from its application are conditional on a near-future State Central Committee (SCC, a much larger body) confirming the SEC actions.

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 could be done by the SEC itself referring the matter to the State Central Committee (SCC) but that path may further inflame the issue. It’s widely believed by observers that Chughtai had the 60% threshold and more, so endorsement is still the most likely outcome.

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 in various capacities at these events. The SEC was quite divided along ideological lines on this proposal, since both Twin Cities DSA and the Democratic Socialist Caucus (DSC) which is independent and does not endorse candidates, were implicated by the Warsame campaign’s accusation of partiality.

In the end, the proposed bylaw amendment was referred to the DFL’s Constitution, Bylaws, and Rules Committee (CBRC.) Also, as the DFL leadership began to take on board just how impossible it would be to staff conventions after disqualifying active DFL Caucuses, unions, and all advocacy organizations such as Sunrise and environmental groups, they reduced the roles included to just co-chair and parliamentarian. As DSA members, we 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 onto the DFL Bylaws, it’s effectively a first step in the DFL calling for a Dirty Break from us. I guess we must be pretty scary.

By Deb K R

NOTE: The above article was amended to clarify that the SEC vote was conditional on SCC ratification.