How Andy Dawkins Tried -- and Failed -- to Save the Green Party in Minnesota


Election night in Minnesota was not a very surprising affair. While the rest of the country sat on the edge of its seat as the "GOP wave" swept in, our state ended up largely sticking with the status quo.

But one of the most interesting threadlines throughout the night was the Green Party's Andy Dawkins. The attorney general candidate had been seen as something of a savior for the Green Party, which had basically disappeared out of relevance in Minnesota. The Strib even hyped him up, saying he could "usher in a new era for the party."

See also: The Green Party Comes to Minnesota, Fighting For New Political Life

He'd spent 15 years as a DFL House member, and the pundits all felt he had enough name recognition to make a push. But the campaign failed. Miserably.

Needing 5 percent of the AG vote to return his party to major party status (and thus, relevancy), Dawkins brought in a meager 1.5 percent -- only around 30,000 votes. So when we caught up with him, he was understandably a little shocked by the whole thing.

"Oh, I'm deeply disappointed," he tells us. "On the bright side, it looks like I have about 30,000 friends out there, because it looks like nobody but my friends voted for me."

What Dawkins means is that he thinks he got the message across to a lot of people, at rallies and college campuses, where his message opposing police brutality and copper-nickel mining connected.

Just nobody else heard it. So while 10 or 20 percent of the state may have known Dawkins's name, the other 80 percent just ignored him. This is how it all went wrong, he says, how the once-perceived "savior" turned into a goat.

Dawkins says he probably misjudged people a bit, too convinced of anger against the two-party model. In reality, especially with Minnesota's recent economic success, the anger just isn't much there.

"Indeed, Minnesota's tradition of being a populist state and being willing, I thought that would all play well," Dawkins sighs. "But in the end, it comes to that 80 percent who just didn't know me."

But he's still optimistic, in the way only a third-party candidate can be. While the rest of the country continues to toe the DFL-or-GOP line, he says he still thinks he can find those upset voters in the future. And though he won't be running again, he still wants to try to find new ways to push the message out.

"So I think the dissatisfaction is only gonna grow," Dawkins says. "But the problem we have as the party is, how do we get it broadcasted?"

Dawkins thinks the solution is if the third-parties can all just team up -- a magical coalition of Greens, Independence, Grassroots, you name it -- then there may be a shot. That'll take time and coordination, something third parties aren't quite known for. But perhaps it could work, and maybe pull them out of political purgatory.

Send your story tips to the author, Robbie Feinberg. Follow him on Twitter @robbiefeinberg.