Election 2017: Caucusing & City Races

So there’s a declared candidate for the St. Paul School Board who’s (a) a TERF (trans-exclusive radical feminist), (b) apparently also an anti-vaxxer, (c) this is apparently just the tip of the iceberg of her overall awfulness, according to people who know her from Facebook neighborhood groups and so on.

I do not normally start blogging in March for a race that’s going to happen in November, but she’s upsetting enough to have already attracted a bunch of attention. And in fact, there is something worth bringing to the attention of my St. Paul readers that they can participate in if they’re concerned about making sure that TERFs (and other potential assholes) don’t slip by and onto the St. Paul School Board: the DFL Caucuses and City Convention are both still upcoming.

 

https://stpauldfl.wordpress.com/

Caucuses are being held next month: which day depends on your ward (if you live in St. Paul). It’s possible that you went to the caucuses a year ago and are already cringing. Just put that thought right ouf of your mind. Caucuses that are not trying to be a presidential primary are completely different events. They are calm, pleasant, celebratory little meetings, and you will be able to drive right over, find a place to park, stroll in, and chat casually with people who are running for School Board and Mayor and who want to earn your support. (And you can ask them things like, “so. Trans kids. Any thoughts?” and see what they say.)

At a lot of caucuses, you basically just raise your hand and sign up if you want to go to the convention to Be a Big Powerful Decider of Endorsements. This is not guaranteed, however. If you have more people who want to go than you have slots, you figure it out with Walking Subcaucuses. But you can, among other things, propose your own Walking Subcaucus for Undecided St. Paul Citizens Who Support Trans Kids and round up a bunch of likeminded people and send some of you on to the City Convention to focus on this particular issue. (Also, if you don’t get to be a delegate, you can easily sign up to be an alternate, and with a City Convention, odds are extremely high that if you show up on the day of the convention, you’ll get upgraded. I mean, for one thing, it’s June 17th. There will always be committed delegates who get up on a nice day in June and think, “fuck spending an entire day stuck inside the Washington Tech high school cafeteria. It is June in Minnesota and I am going to spend the day in my garden.“)

The City Convention is on June 17th, at Washington Tech High School, and will likely be a fairly long day, as they will be endorsing both School Board people and a Mayoral candidate. (Or possibly they’ll fail to endorse a mayoral candidate! That can happen, too. I expect they’ll settle on some school board candidates, though.)

But you can go to your caucus, and you can either sign up to be a delegate, or you can go to a walking subcaucus to send delegates who pledge not to support a transphobic asshole, and you can make absolutely damn sure that this woman doesn’t wind up with DFL endorsement.

(I think she’s very unliikely to get it. VERY VERY VERY. For a whole lot of reasons, including the very basic one of, “when neighbors who barely know you dislike you so strongly that they are actively out there warning people against you, your odds of finding diligent, helpful volunteers who will help you get through the endorsement process are really quite low.” But also, most of the people who show up at the DFL City Convention are quite progressive, and this woman’s views are not going to be a selling point that will impress many people. Note, I have no idea whether she’s even going for DFL endorsement; I don’t get the vibe that she actually knows what the hell she’s even doing politically. She could, I suppose, ask for Republican endorsement, instead, but most St. Paul residents consider that endorsement to be a big old warning label, so that certainly won’t get her any closer to the school board.)

DFL endorsement is extremely important in St. Paul for down-ticket races like school board, because the list of DFL-endorsed candidates get printed on ALL THE THINGS that come from the DFL, and lots of people just use those brochures as a checklist. There’s money that comes from the DFL, and volunteers who drop lit for everyone, and lots of other stuff.

Here’s a post I wrote last year about how a caucus runs:
https://naomikritzer.com/2016/02/28/minnesota-caucuses-what-actually-happens/ Ignore the stuff about (a) crowds and (b) counting presidential preference ballots, that’s no longer current.

And here’s a post I wrote about political conventions, and why you might want to go:
https://naomikritzer.com/2016/02/29/political-conventions-and-why-you-might-want-to-go/
This includes a detailed explanation of Walking Subcaucuses, but one additional note I’ll make: if you’re at your Senate District Convention picking delegates for the State Convention, you’re trying to divide up like 30 seats between 500 eager volunteers. Whereas if your precinct caucus DOES have to run a walking subcaucus to sort out delegates to the City Convention, it’ll be something more like, “50 people want to go and we only have 40 slots.” Very different dynamic.

If you become a City Convention delegate, you can expect a lot of phone calls and visits from people who’d like to serve on the School Board or be the next Mayor of St. Paul. Candidates will likely call you personally and ask to discuss your personal concerns. So among other things, if there’s an issue you feel strongly about, this is a GREAT opportunity to make sure that school board people and possible future mayors hear about it. (Note that these are not fundraising calls: what they want is your physical presence and votes at the City Convention, and hitting you up for money will just encourage you to dodge their calls. Although possibly you’ll get super excited about someone, and if that happens, they will be ecstatic if you want to volunteer, particularly at the City Convention — they need people to come in super early and stake out table space and hand out t-shirts and tell everyone who asks why you are thrilled to be supporting so-and-so… A lot of smaller candidates rely heavily on family members and personal friends to do this particular work, but when they can get convention delegates who are excited about supporting them, that is great news.)

AND ONE FINAL NOTE:

Everyone in Minnesota has caucuses upcoming! And Minneapolis ALSO has very interesting city elections coming up, so if you are a Minneapolis resident, by all means go to your Caucus, Ward Convention, and City Convention. (The Minneapolis DFL page has a list of who’s running for endorsement — not just for Mayor, but for the City Council, Park Board, and BET positions as well. Lots of excitement upcoming!)

 

Election 2017: Free Advice Offered Here

St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman is not running for re-election (instead, he’s going to run for governor) so people are starting to announce that they’re running to replace him. I am paying  at least a little bit of attention because for one thing, although the election isn’t until next November, the St. Paul DFL caucuses are in April and the St. Paul City Convention is in June, and if I’m a delegate to the city convention I could help decide who (if anyone) gets the DFL endorsement.

I’ll note that the DFL has a lists of people who were delegates to conventions in the past, and during the race for State Rep four years ago, the people interested in the soon-to-be-open seat used this list to contact people who’d been delegates in the past to ask for their support. I got letters, phone calls, and personal visits. A legislative district is pretty small, and it’s harder to do that when you’re running for mayor, but still, much more achievable than individually contacting every individual resident of the city.

You can also buy a broader e-mail list and start e-mailing people, and if you do that, here is the free advice I promised up top: start by introducing yourself. Tell me who you are, what you stand for, what your experience is, and why you deserve my support.

This honestly seems pretty obvious.

And yet, the first contact I got from one candidate looked like this:

Naomi –

I hope this note finds you and your family well this holiday season!

As the year comes to a close, my campaign to be Saint Paul’s next mayor is really starting to heat up. Just a couple of weeks ago Mayor Coleman announced he is not running for reelection; he’s been a strong leader for our city and I look forward to building on his work.

I’m ready to lead our city, building on our growth and progress while making sure that every family in every Saint Paul community grows and prospers along with it.

And that means I need your help at our year-end deadline. We’re building a strong campaign, but we need the resources to keep growing and win. Please contribute today and help me become Saint Paul’s next mayor!

There is a lot at stake, and Saint Paul is at a turning point. Our next mayor will shape our city for decades to come. I am committed to making sure Saint Paul is a city that serves everyone.

Your help today is critical. At our year-end deadline we’ll report how much we’ve raised, and we need to show our campaign’s strength and viability. Will you help before 2016 ends by making a contribution today?

I’m looking forward to working with you in the coming year and beyond to make our city stronger, more prosperous, and more welcoming than ever.

Thank you,
Melvin

P.S. – Let’s give folks something to talk about. Chip in now to help us top our goal and report the strongest number we can at our deadline!

“I look forward to building on (Chris Coleman’s) work; I’m ready to lead our city” is not a useful introduction. “I need your help at our year-end deadline” is what you say to someone you already know is a supporter, not a person for whom this is your first attempt at contact. At this stage, you should be telling me who you are and what your experience is, not hitting me up for money. You should be inviting me to your meet-and-greet, not your fundraiser.

Someone named Chris Kluthe (his campaign chair? I don’t know, as he doesn’t introduce himself either) followed up later the same day with:

Naomi – I wanted to be sure you saw Melvin’s email. With our deadline less than 72 hours away, it’s critical that we end the year strong. Please, click here now to chip in and help make Melvin our next mayor! 

Is Melvin Carter III awesome? He might be awesome, I have no idea. Having looked him up, he’s apparently a former Council Rep for Ward 1 and quit midway through his second term to work for the Department of Education. He started running a year ago (because he guessed that Chris Coleman wouldn’t run again). He would be St. Paul’s first black mayor.

I got fundraising e-mails from Melvin Carter or Chris Kluthe on December 29th (twice), December 30th, December 31st (twice), and January 2nd. On the 30th I e-mailed a reply to the “it’s critical that we hit our goal before this deadline” message with, “Who even are you? Nonstop nagging me for donations is not how you introduce yourself to possible supporters!” to see if anyone would reply to me in a more personal way. Nope!

It’s maybe a little early to say that he’s lost my vote, because … maybe he’s awesome? But I find it obnoxious to be hit me up for money, six times in ten days, via a mailing list I did not sign up for, from someone I’d never heard of before he started asking me for money. (Should I have heard of him? Maybe? But remember, I only moved to St. Paul in 2012, and he quit his council job in 2013, and at that point I was still trying to remember the name of the rep from my own ward, let alone anyone else’s.)

I probably ought to unsubscribe from his e-list, but at this point I’m honestly curious how many times his campaign is going to ask me for money before reaching out to tell me anything about him.

Also, hey, if you live in either Minneapolis or St. Paul, both mayoral races are shaping up to be pretty interesting. Chris Coleman is not running again, and Betsy Hodges has a bunch of serious candidates running against her. You can go to your local caucus and become a delegate to your City Convention and help decide who gets the DFL endorsement! (Or, as has happened at many such conventions, help block the person you don’t like from getting the DFL endorsement! It’s exciting either way.)