2023 Elections – How we did, how MN did, how the US did




Twin Cities DSA endorsees

Twin Cities DSA endorsed seven candidates this year: five were running for city council seats in Minneapolis, and two for city council seats in Saint Paul. We had an 80% win rate in Minneapolis and a 100% in Saint Paul. The one loss, heartbreakingly close, was also the only one running against an incumbent. 

This was Soren Stevenson, who gained the DFL endorsement over incumbent and council president Andrea Jenkins for Ward 8 in Minneapolis, after having already been endorsed by Twin Cities DSA. This was considered a shocking upset by the city powers, the centrist DFL-ers, and probably Ms. Jenkins herself. Let’s just say, after that, the Empire Struck Back.

In the Minneapolis election, two PACs were formed: Minneapolis for the Many, and All of Mpls. The first one was identified in the media with DSA, though with no actual connection to our chapter, and with a partly different slate of candidates. The other PAC was openly formed to stop DSA from gaining so much darned power. All of Mpls was backed by Republicans, centrist DFL-ers, landlords, developers, a handful of billionaires and just generally the business-as-usual, law-and-order, techno-feudalism gang.  

Both cities use Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) to negate the need for primaries or runoff elections. Three of our Minneapolis Council candidates – Robin Wonsley (W2), Jason Chavez (W9), and Aisha Chughtai (W10) – and one of our Saint Paul candidates – Nelsie Yang (W6) – were incumbents. The incumbents all won on the first choice votes alone:

  • Wonsley W2 67% opposed only by write-ins
  • Chavez W9  79% with one opponent
  • Chughtai W10 61% with three opponents
  • Yang (St. Paul) W6 61% with one opponent

In the Ward 8 race, Stevenson beat Jenkins slightly on first choice votes, by 106 votes. RCV rules say that if the top candidate in a round of choices does not have a 50% plus 1 majority, the next round will be counted until either one candidate does get a majority or the votes are exhausted. That second case is what happened here, as Jenkins got just enough round two votes before all ballots were exhausted to give her a larger plurality (still not a majority) by a mere 38 votes. 

The Ward 12 race in Minneapolis was complex. (It’s also my ward, so I was very invested in it!) The incumbent, Andrew Johnson, did not seek re-election. He was first elected in 2013 and at the time was the youngest member on the Council, or maybe ever. He was considered a pragmatic progressive, and for socialist policies was a left-leaning swing vote. Our endorsee Aurin Chowdhury was a policy aide to Jason Chavez in W9, as well as a former Steering Committee member in the chapter. Prior to the DFL Ward convention, she had three opponents, but one of them pledged to drop out if someone else was endorsed and did so. She was left facing two pretty weak (in hindsight) challengers – Nancy Ford, a small business owner, and Luther Ranheim, who has a non-profit leadership background. 

Ranheim was on the All of Mpls slate, as was Jenkins in W8. It’s significant that All of Mpls outspent Stevenson’s campaign PLUS Minneapolis for the Many four to one, and spent a similar amount on W12. For all that, Chowdhury won W12 on first-choice votes alone by 54%. And Stevenson only lost by 38 votes. 

Finally, in Saint Paul’s city council race, Hwa-Jeong Kim in Ward 5 was another candidate where the incumbent did not seek re-election. She was facing three opponents, and won on first-choice votes at 52%. Nelsie Yang was the incumbent in Ward 6, and won with 61% as noted above. 

The seven 2024 Saint Paul City Council electeds, shown in Ward order from top left

City Council composition and mandates in Minneapolis and Saint Paul

The number of candidates we can endorse in a given race is limited mainly by our capacity to give enough money and time to influence a win. But now that we have seats at several tables, we can identify who our allies are, as well as our foes. 

The Minneapolis City Council tension with Mayor Jacob Frey will likely intensify. Even though current Council President Andrea Jenkins has retained her seat, she has not necessarily retained the presidency. And the balance of power has shifted. 2024’s Council will have four democratic socialists (Wonsley, Chavez, Chughtai, and Chowdhury), and where it currently has two allied progressives, it will now have three (Elliott Payne (W1), Jeremiah Ellison (W5), and newly elected Katie Cashman (W7). The new center of gravity may lead Ward 6’s re-elected  Jamal Osman, who has been a swing vote, to swing our way more often. This leaves only five who range from moderate liberal to centrist: Michael Rainville (W3), LaTrisha Vetaw (W4), Jenkins (W8), Emily Koski (W11), and Linea Palmisano (W13). We still don’t have a veto-proof majority, but after Frey’s stunt on Fox News I can’t even say “veto” without cracking up.  

Check out this thorough analysis from MinnPost for more details. (H/t to Josh K for posting this in the Electoral channel in Slack.) 

In Saint Paul, what had been a historic possibility has become a reality: they will have an all-women City Council come 2024. I am not as familiar with the wards or the politics in Saint Paul, but my feeling is that its smaller City Council is more cohesive and generally left-leaning than Minneapolis’s. There will be two DSA members, and two or three more with solid progressive values and history. The line-up is:

  • Ward 1 – Anika Bowie
  • Ward 2 – Rebecca Noecker
  • Ward 3 – Saura Jost
  • Ward 4 – Mitra Jalali
  • Ward 5 – Hwa Jeong Kim (DSA)
  • Ward 6 – Nelsie Yang (DSA)
  • Ward 7 – Cheniqua Johnson 

Other notable wins/losses in the Twin Cities metro

Four SPFE and DFL endorsed winners in Saint Paul School Board race

School board races were hot this year, in Minnesota and across the US. The day before the election, Axios Twin Cities reported that overall school board race spending in the state was $336K. A lot of this is due to a concerted attack from the right, as the “Moms for Liberty” movement gives rise to “parental rights” PACs and advocacy groups across the nation.

Four seats on Saint Paul’s seven member school board were on the ballot.The teacher’s union, the St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) had a slate in the running, and all four were also endorsed by the DFL. And all four won. One, Chauntyll Allen, was an incumbent. The other three new members are Yusef Carrillo, Carlo Franco, and Erica Valliant. One of the sitting members, Uriah Ward, is a DSA member. 

Steeling myself to read the website of the MN version of Moms for Liberty, the MN Parents Alliance (MPA), I found out that they did rather poorly in Minnesota, as they did across the many states they have infested. (But not poorly enough.) They endorsed 44 candidates in all, and only nine of them won. MPA endorsed candidates in the following districts: Anoka-Hennepin, Bloomington, Chisago Lakes, Columbia Heights, Duluth, Fridley, Hastings, Hopkins, Inver Grove Heights, Minnetonka, Mounds View, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, Roseville, South St. Paul, South Washington County, Spring Lake Park, St. Peter, Stillwater, Wayzata, and Westonka.  

From comrade Reid M – Good news from my neck of the woods: Minnetonka will continue to have ranked choice voting! An effort to repeal that failed by a 59-41 margin. This despite the support of the current mayor and two former mayors for repeal (they cite it as too expensive and cumbersome). 

St. Louis Park Mayor Elect Nadia Mohamed, the first elected Somali-American mayor in the US

In St. Louis Park, MN, Nadia Mohamed made history for the second time in her young life by winning the mayoral race at age 27, and as the first elected Somali-American mayor in the country. (There is one other but they were appointed from within the city council.) She’s still the first Somali-American mayor in Minnesota, and of course, in St. Louis Park. She was elected to the city council four years ago, with similar historical firsts. 

In neighboring Golden Valley, MN, Roslyn Harmon, a 47 year old nonprofit executive, became that city’s first Black mayor in a closely-won race. 

Elections in other parts of Minnesota

The news from Duluth (Twin Ports DSA) was not nearly as good as that in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Twin Ports DSA had endorsed three candidates for the Duluth City Council – Jenna Yeakle and Miranda Pacheco for two at-large seats and Wendy Durrwachter for District 1. Yeakle and Pacheco had made it through a primary that whittled the field down to the top four, but sadly neither of them were elected on November 7. Durrwachter did win her race. Also, eight year incumbent mayor Emily Larson, not DSA-endorsed but slightly left, was defeated by Roger Reinert by 60% to 40%.

Some interesting outcomes in other states

Nationally, DSA’s nationally endorsed candidates did very well. In New York City, which DSA Director Maria Svart rightly described as the “epicenter of the backlash to our stance in solidarity with Gaza,” two local incumbents won re-election by landslide margins. DSA had a win rate of 69% from 23 races, with one remaining to be called. Voters elected 12 nationally endorsed candidates to local office in Washington, New Mexico, Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts, and contributed to multiple ballot initiative victories.

One very interesting result was by how large a margin the state of Ohio voted on two left wing projects – a constitutional amendment protecting the right to abortion by 56.6%, and legalization of recreational weed and cannabis products by 57%.

Back to school boards now. HuffPost, New Republic and others covered the poor showing of Moms for Liberty, a national PAC endorsing right-wing school board candidates. From HuffPost:

The group burst onto the national scene in 2020, when conservative parents were railing against masking in schools. Less concerned with traditional issues like teacher retention and funding, Moms for Liberty champions anti-LGBTQ policies like banning transgender students from using bathrooms aligned with their gender identities and removing books with racial justice or LGBTQ themes from school libraries.

But while Moms for Liberty candidates were able to notch some victories on Tuesday, they floundered in the suburbs. Newsweek reported that Moms for Liberty were “annihilated.” 

In Pennsylvania and Virginia, a left-wing school board PAC called SixPAC was formed just this year to oppose them. SixPAC sent out a mailer early November 8 claiming:

Hate group Moms for Liberty faced a wave of defeat nationwide as pro-education, anti-book ban progressives won BIG! The SixPAC endorsed twenty-two candidates, and seventeen of them won. Across the country, even in deep red states, actual parents are fed up with Moms for Liberty.

By Deb K R