The drama that unfolded at Saturday's 8th Ward Convention carried some hard political lessons. Number one: If it's politically expedient for candidates to say that they'll bow out if someone else receives a coveted DFL endorsement, they'll say it. They'll just make sure no candidate gets the endorsement, so they can run after the convention and technically not break any promise.
Hard political lesson number two: In a racially divided part of town, even a black veteran of Minneapolis politics can't necessarily count on the support of white voters.
Both lessons emerged at Martin Luther King Park in south Minneapolis over the weekend. Early on, Titi Bediako and Dennis Tifft were knocked out of the race. That left three candidates for the remaining rounds of balloting. Marie Hauser had earned 26 percent of the votes, Elizabeth Glidden captured 31 percent, and Jeff Hayden had 38 percent. In order to win the endorsement, candidates must win 60 percent or more of the vote.
In the fourth round, Hauser was eliminated while Glidden rose to 33 percent and Hayden scored 40 percent. The floor erupted in raucous cheering at this point, with Glidden and Hayden supporters shouting "Endorse!" and Tifft supporters shouting "No!" in a brazen effort to keep him in the race.
In the fifth round, Hayden, who, like Bediako, is black, came up with 42 percent of the vote, but Glidden pulled ahead with 46 percent, while 11 percent of the delegates voted for no endorsement. "People who came to the DFL process said they would honor it, but they're not," said Hayden, referring to a statement all candidates made before the convention that they would bow out of the race if another candidate was endorsed. "They're actually trying to create a stalemate, so they can continue to campaign."
And that's exactly what happened: After the sixth and final ballot, Glidden, a lawyer, had 43 percent of the vote, Hayden had 42 percent. "No endorsement" received over 15 percent. Tifft and Hauser supporters were clearly happy with the outcome, and said that they were not blocking Hayden or the process. "We're taking it to the people," Tifft said afterward. "That means going door-to-door and engaging as many people as possible. It wasn't blocking."
Bediako, who said she is throwing her support behind Hayden, is not convinced. "What's happening here is obviously an example of political strategy," Bediako declared, adding, perhaps a bit hyperbolically, "but also straight-up white nationalism." After Hauser, a park board commissioner, was out of the race, her supporters--a majority of whom, like Tifft's, were white--split their votes between Glidden and no endorsement. None of them voted for Hayden.
What's left is a bit of a mess, with four of the DFL candidates staying in the field with another four independent candidates. But Hayden, a former aide to council member Gary Schiff who also has experience working with the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, was sanguine. "You can call today a draw if you want, but we view it as a clear victory," he said, as delegates filed out of the crowded gym. "We had two campaigns working against us--Tifft and Hauser. They blocked their delegates, and they blocked the process. But that's okay, we're just going to take it to the streets, and I think I can win."