Paula Overby, first transgender congressional candidate, leaves DFL in protest

Paula Overby, first transgender congressional candidate, leaves DFL in protest
Paula Overby

Last summer, Paula Overby told us about her plans to become the first transgender person to represent Minnesota in the U.S. House. She spoke of social justice and inclusion and made it known that the DFL best encompassed those ideals.

But at the district convention, on April 26, she withdrew her nomination before the first ballots were announced. Five weeks later, she resigned from the party in protest.

See also:
Eagan's Paula Overby plans to be the state's first transgender candidate for Congress

And just this week, when we called to ask her why, she argued that the DFL is controlled by a few powerful people who cater to the interests of the middle-class white male. "It excludes the majority of Americans," she says.

So what changed? Overby spent the past year working on the party's outreach and inclusion committee, which she now describes as a "glass ceiling." The final break came at the state convention in Duluth. On the last day, the minority caucuses were scheduled to speak and present reports, but at the last minute were told they couldn't.

Overby took this as a sign of the party's hypocrisy, but Frank Brown, who co-chairs the DFL's African American caucus, says he takes "strong contention" with that interpretation of events. There were not enough delegates left in attendance for a quorum, so the presentations were moved to another gathering, set for August 16. "Officials in the DFL apologized," he says, "but those are the rules."

Overby still has her supporters within the DFL. Shirlynn LaChapelle, a delegate who's "not drinking the Kool-Aid," tells us that Overby's criticism of the party is spot on. "I see a lot of promises in election time," LaChapelle says. "After election time, I see nothing. What they're not realizing is that the public is starting to looking at (Dems and Republicans) as no different than the other."

In June, Overby secured the Independence Party endorsement for the 2nd Congressional District and shed what she considers to be the conformist expectations of the DFL. In the IP, it's less about specific issues than core values -- which frees her up to say what she wants and be who she wants without fear of upsetting the bosses.

"The most important voice in the room is the dissenting opinion," she says.

-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse

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