The Potluck

Minneapolis DFL vice chair resigns, hitting state party on the way out

By: - September 20, 2023 1:26 pm

Photo by Tony Webster.

The vice chair of the Minneapolis Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party resigned from his post Wednesday, attacking the DFL endorsement process and what he called voting irregularities around that process on his way out the door.

Mike Norton criticized the caucus and convention process, which he called “highly problematic and exclusionary” and “complex and cumbersome.” The upshot, according to Norton: A handful of insiders wind up deciding the fate of candidates — and even the city itself because Minneapolis is a one-party town.

Ken Martin, the state party chair, rejected Norton’s criticism of the party endorsement process, which he said gives power to grassroots delegates.

“One of the reasons we see so many new elected leaders is because our process means people with the most name ID or money don’t have the automatic advantage. It favors candidates who organize, inspire and mobilize delegates,” Martin said. “Without the endorsement process, there’d never be a Paul Wellstone or Keith Ellison,” he said, referring to the late U.S senator and current attorney general.

The root of Norton’s frustrations, he indicates in the resignation letter, is not the city party, but, rather, the state party. The Minnesota DFL, he writes, “seems unwilling or unable to support adequate safeguards against fraud within the process they require the local party unit to follow.”

Norton then cites “significant delegate irregularities” in wards 5, 6 and 10, adding that the state party’s response “appeared to be indifference.” The Reformer reported on those irregurities in March.

“It’s not accurate to say the party was indifferent or didn’t care,” Martin responded. “We took those allegations seriously and we made the decisions we made.”

The state party, Martin said, does not interfere in local party business. Notably, however, the state party adopted bylaws that barred a candidate — Nasri Warsame in Ward 10 — from seeking an endorsement for any office after his supporters created chaos at an endorsing convention.

Norton also acknowledged in texts to the Reformer that he’s felt hamstrung by party rules that kept him from personally endorsing candidates he favors who have not won the party endorsement, specifically Kate Mortenson, who is running against Council Member Linea Palmisano in Ward 13. Norton unsuccessfully ran against Palmisano in 2021.

Norton addressed Minneapolis DFL Chair Briana Rose Lee warmly in his resignation letter: “It’s with utmost respect and admiration and respect for your work as chair and the work of our colleagues at the Minneapolis DFL that I write to inform you of my intent to resign.”

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children