Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Minnesota, tries to motivate progressives who may be lukewarm on Biden

By: - October 18, 2020 10:31 pm

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaking to an invitation-only event Sunday in Brooklyn Park. Photo by Vanna Contreras/Minnesota Reformer.

BROOKLYN PARK – U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was in Minnesota Sunday to close the sale with progressive voters who might be wavering about Joe Biden, a 77-year-old white man who was the establishment Democrats’ choice during the lengthy primary season that saw candidate Warren rise and fall.

“Sixteen more days!” Warren hollered when she arrived at Oak Grove Park here for a socially distanced, semi-private mini-rally for Biden.

“And I can’t wait. Sixteen more days and we are gonna send Donald Trump packin’,” Warren said, in a purple Patagonia jacket that was entirely too thin for the 30-degree morning. 

“We’re gonna put (Sen.) Kamala Harris and Joe Biden in charge. And we’re gonna take back the Senate, keep the House and elect Democrats up and down the ballot,” said Warren, who briefly captivated Democratic voters during her own presidential run. 

A Brooklyn Park resident named Felicia, who declined to give her last name, said Warren was her candidate in the primary. She got a text inviting her to the event and jumped at the chance.

She said she’s become much more active this election, motivated by what she called the “hurtful” atmosphere Trump has unleashed, especially against people of color and immigrants. 

“I sincerely believe that this one is so significant. I consider it just about the most important election of my lifetime because of the current administration,” she said. “I think it’s about our humanity. We have to look outside ourselves to make this right.”

Biden needs voters like Felicia to support him — and tell their friends to do the same. 

In 2016, after a bruising primary battle between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, enough progressive voters stayed home or supported Green Party and other minor party candidates to deny Clinton the presidency. She lost Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes, while Green Party nominee Jill Stein won 31,000 votes. 

After stumping for Biden in Wisconsin this weekend, Warren had three stops in Minnesota on Sunday: St. Paul, Northfield and Brooklyn Park.

The Star Tribune reported that Jennifer Carnahan, chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, released a statement calling Warren a “far-left radical surrogate.”

“Warren represents a very small section of the Democrat (sic) Party, led by AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], Ilhan Omar and the Squad, and is more unlikeable than Hillary Clinton, who Minnesota voters nearly rejected four years ago,” Carnahan said.

Warren has been in electoral politics for less than a decade but quickly developed a reputation for effective attack lines, and brought down the hammer on Trump. 

Warren said the election is about accountability, and, “We’ve got a lot of accountin’ to do with Donald Trump,” she said as oblivious children screamed and played in a nearby playground.

He’s accountable for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, she said, with more than 215,000 Americans dead — more than four Vietnam Wars.

“We are now eight months into this pandemic and Donald Trump still doesn’t have a plan,” she said.  

Warren also hit Trump on attempts to take health insurance from people with preexisting conditions; a conservative Supreme Court that could end Roe v. Wade and crush labor unions; the pandemic-related recession; and, climate and environment issues.

Derek Wohlers donned his Vikings shirt and cap and purple tennis shoes Sunday morning in preparation for the noon game, but when he heard Warren was going to be in Brooklyn Park, he decided to walk over to check it out. He’s one of those coveted suburban voters Biden and Trump are targeting this election, and he’s not sure which way his neighbors lean since they haven’t talked much about the election. “To keep the peace more than anything,” he said. 

There’s one Biden sign in his neighborhood.

“It’ll be close,” he said. “Judging by signs I see some decent support but I also see some for the other side as well.”

More than 80,000 people live in this northwest suburb, about half of them white and 28% Black, with nearly a quarter of them foreign-born, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

It should be a Biden stronghold, but politics have been particularly unpredictable this year. 

Wohlers, a Stillwater native who works for a software company and moved his young family to Brooklyn Park three years ago, said he leans left politically. But he said his vote for Biden is mostly related to his distaste for Trump’s divisive rhetoric.  “I think we’re at a time when we need strong leadership that’s gonna bring people together and not somebody who’s divisive and insulting,” Wohlers said. 

After the event, Warren did one TV interview and then hurried to her car, stopping to pose for just one elbow bump even as the crowd followed her, hoping for her trademark selfie line.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.