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30 Minutes with Ken Martin

by JeffStrate on January 13, 2017 · 0 comments

State DFL Chair Ken Martin and Tim O’Brien take measure of the 2016 election and the future of Democrats in Minnesota and the nation on this half hour Democratic Visions special. Martin and DFL Vice Chair Marge Hoffa took office in 2011 and are seeking a third term as DFL Party leads. Martin and Hoffa have a campaign website.


As of the publication of this post, only former State DFL Associate Chair Donna Cassutt (2005-2011) is challenging Martin. Cassutt served with state party Chair Brian Melendez who announced his retirement two days after the guberantorial vote recount that confirmed in December 2010 Mark Dayton’s win.   Cassutt has a campaign venue on Facebook.


Democratic Visions is an independent community access CableTV and internet program handcrafted by southwest suburban, lefty volunteers. I’m in my ninth year of producing the thing.


Ken Martin elected DFL Party Chair

by The Big E on February 6, 2011 · 2 comments

Ken Martin was elected DFL Party Chair at today’s DFL business meeting.  Marge Hoffa was elected Associate Party Chair.  They had no opposition and were elected by acclamation.

Martin promised to address the party’s fundraising problems, focus on messaging and would be a full-time chair.

Vanessa Blomgren beat MPP’s own Jacob Grippen to become the DFL’s Secretary.  Tom Hamilton was elected Treasurer.  The competitive races used ranked choice voting which I applaud.

In the other competitive race, Eric Margolis beat Frank Brown to become the Affirmative Action Officer.  Brown was running for reelection to the post, but became an overnight controversial figure.  He had previously admitted he was a felon, that he had served his time and was no longer on parole or in the system anymore.  He has been very active in the Second Chance movement.  But yesterday, the nature of his crime came to light.  He is a Level One (lowest level) registered sex offender.  He has not re-offended.


Brian Melendez made it official today.  He will not be running for another term as DFL Party Chair.  Many people had told me he would be making this announcement after the recount wound up.

Read Brian’s letter in it’s entirety below the fold.

His pivotal decision that I will always thank him for was hiring Jaime Tincher to create our voter file.  This was instrumental in our victories in ’06 and ’08.  It is also one of our key tools moving forward.

According to MPR, only one candidate is close to running:

One of the names popping up to replace Melendez is Ken Martin. He downplayed talk of a possible run when I talked to him earlier this week but said he was interested in the position. Martin just told me he’s interested in the position.

“I’ve been flattered by the people who called and asked me about it,” Martin said. “I’ll take the next couple of days to make sure it’s the right decision.”

Martin has been instrumental in DFL politics for the past several years. He was the campaign coordinator for John Kerry’s presidential bid in 2004. In 2006, he worked on Democrat Attorney General Mike Hatch’s failed gubernatorial bid. In 2008, he managed the successful efforts to increase the state sales tax and dedicate those funds for the environment, the outdoors, the arts and cultural programs. In 2010, Martin coordinated the 2010 Fund and Win Minnesota. Those two umbrella groups were responsible for funding the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, which ran millions of dollars in advertising criticizing Republican Tom Emmer.

Here is Brian’s letter:

Dear fellow Central Committee members:

For six years you and I have worked together, celebrated together, won together, lost together, dreamed together of a better Minnesota, and worked hard to build those dreams into a reality. Together we helped elect Tim Walz to Congress, and Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken to the Senate. We brought the Party to the sixth strongest electoral standing in its history in 2008, and its third strongest in 2010. We turned the voter file into a state-of-the-art tool that became a national model. We broke the record for personal-solicitation fundraising in my first full year on the job, then broke it again this year. We grew the constituency caucuses from four to more than a dozen, and engaged them in the Coordinated Campaign. We sent the most diverse delegation in the state’s history to the National Convention, then helped elect the first person of color to serve as President of the United States. We hired the first permanent field staff in the Party’s history, and the first permanent staff based outside of the Twin Cities. And through it all, we were united behind a strong and consistent message of accountability, opportunity, prosperity, and fair play that we delivered to every corner of our state.

And after six years of working together, we have finally reached the long-awaited moment when a DFLer, Mark Dayton, will be advancing a progressive agenda at our state’s helm for the first time in 20 years. The DFL Party will hold every statewide office – for the first time in 32 years. Only a handful of us can even remember what that’s like. Most of us (including me, as a Minnesotan for almost 20 years) are about to find out. Either way, we’re all looking forward to it.

Serving as State Chair has been the most exhilarating, challenging, and intense experience in my life. But it’s a little like riding a bucking bronco, or holding your breath underwater: no matter how good you are at it, and even if you like it, you can’t do it forever. For the past six years, I have given as much time, energy, and personal resources to the Party as I could afford (and sometimes more). I have opened my home for dozens of fundraisers, for candidates and causes ranging from Tim Walz to my local legislators, from the constituency caucuses to MYDFL. And I have opened my home to dozens of Party, campaign, and recount staff and volunteers, so often that I have shared my house with them (often two or three at a time) more often than I have lived alone. I have volunteered nearly 10,000 hours, and haven’t taken a vacation – in fact, haven’t taken off more than two consecutive days (and then only once a year, when my godchildren visit for the State Fair) – since 2004.

I have done this job willingly and with an open heart because I believe, now even more strongly than when I first ran six years ago, that the DFL Party is the greatest engine for positive social change in Minnesota. I want a better state and a better nation for us and for posterity.

Now I’m ready to come up for air.

I therefore will not seek a fourth term as State Chair. I am honored to be one of only five state chairs in the Party’s history – and only the second in the last 40 years – to serve three full terms. But this service has been honor enough for a lifetime. (And I can understand why none of my predecessors ever completed a fourth term.)

I am grateful for many things over the past six years. This job has been like getting a Ph.D. in human nature. I have seen the dark side of politics and people at their worst. But I have also seen politics and people at their best. One of the most personally uplifting moments in my tenure occurred when the DFL senators and representatives in Congress let Donna, Andy, and me join them for one of their monthly lunchtime meetings in Washington. There I watched Representatives Collin Peterson and Keith Ellison engage each other on a complex, thorny issue of domestic policy over which they did not yet see eye to eye. But as they talked, several things became clear: each representative was the master of his brief, with an impressive array of facts and figures and arguments at his fingertips; each respected the other immensely; and they were each listening and learning, and deftly finding common ground. I am so proud of them, and all our elected officials, who must wade through the cesspool of partisan politics simply for the opportunity of serving us and patiently building a better world. As Josh Lyman, Sam Seaborn, and C.J. Cregg write to their parents at the end of the best episode of The West Wing, “There are so many days here where you can’t imagine that anything good will ever happen. You’re buried under a black fog of partisanship and self-promotion and stupidity. And a brand of politics that’s just plain mean.” But as C.J. concludes, “if politics brings out the worst in people, maybe people bring out the best,” and I have seen the people in our party bring out the best in our world. I will treasure those experiences and that education for all my life.

I am also grateful for the colleagues and allies with whom I have served – my fellow party officers, our tireless staff, our friends in organized Labor, and the tens of thousands of activists, volunteers, and concerned citizens who are our Party’s lifeblood. I can never thank individually all the friends and colleagues to whom my administration and I are indebted. But I must at least recognize perhaps the best team of fellow officers with whom any state chair has ever served: Affirmative Action Officer Frank Brown, Treasurer Lori Sellner, Secretary Susan Rego, and most of all my brother and sister in arms, Executive Director Andy O’Leary and Associate Chair Donna Cassutt, who have been there every step of the way. Donna’s title really should have been co-Chair.

Together, all of us, we have made a difference. The Party will keep making a difference. But soon under new management.

To be sure, I will miss this life near the beating heart of our state’s politics: I have held this job for nearly a third of the time that I have lived in Minnesota, and have held party office at some level since the mid-90s. But I am very much looking forward to returning to a more private, more contemplative life: Reconnecting with friends from whom I have been mostly absent for six years. Going out to dinner without paying more attention to my BlackBerry than to my date. Celebrating holidays without an emergency interrupting. Focusing more on my day job (so that I can finally pay off my student loans). Enjoying the occasional weekend reading a book on the porch. I am ready for a sabbatical. So ready.

So as I move on to the next phase in my life I am grateful for the honor of having served as your State Chair, relieved that someone else will be taking up that office, and looking forward to the years and the challenges ahead. I will always cherish the memories of these last six years that you and I have shared. I hope that we will both be happy, where we are going.


Brian Melendez


Minnesota DFL Party


DFL Chair’s Race 2011

by The Big E on December 9, 2010 · 34 comments

Now that Mark Dayton is officially Minnesota’s Governor-Elect, the next stage is about to begin for the DFL as we transition and realign to a new political reality in this state.  I have heard from enough reliable sources that I can confidently claim that current Party Chair Brian Melendez will not be seeking a fourth term.  This means that the 2011 DFL Party Chair campaign is about to begin.

This gives us an opportunity to have a very productive discussion about our party’s framing and messaging.

Our next chair needs to embrace the latest communications advances and build a comprehensive communications strategy.  

As I’ve argued in the past, we don’t need to re-invent the wheel.  We desperately need to build a solid strategy that uses all possible tools at our disposal.  

There are four people who keep popping up in conversations I’ve been having over the last months:  Ken Martin, Kathy Saltzman, Mike Rothman and Marge Hoffa.  I’ve heard Marge’s name as an Assistant Associate Chair candidate and the other three as Chair candidates.

With Melendez stepping aside, I foresee the aforementioned three and probably more tossing their hats into the ring.

Let the Chair’s Race begin!