Ken Martin to Run for DFL Party Chair

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Ken Martin, who served as Minnesota Governor-elect Mark Dayton’s recount director, announced today that he will run for the Democratic-Farm-Labor chairmanship. Current DFL chair Brian Melendez announced last week that he will not seek a fourth two-year term, following the party’s loss of the state house and senate in the Nov. 2 election.

Here is Martin’s letter today to the DFL party, announcing his candidacy:

Fellow DFL State Central Committee members,

Many of us have spent the better part of two decades trying to win back the Governor’s office in Minnesota. With the recount over, we can finally say that we accomplished the task. We have elected Mark Dayton as the new Governor.

I want to thank our outgoing leaders, Chairman Brian Melendez and Associate Chair Donna Cassutt, for their service to our party these past six years. They have left a great legacy and I extend my personal gratitude to them for the success that they brought to our party.

We all have a lot to be proud of at this moment, as much of the hard work that we put in for our party paid off. This cycle was bittersweet, though; we won the Governor’s race but lost control of both houses of the legislature. Our work is not done.

I am focused and determined to continue fighting for the values of our party and the people of Minnesota. This is why I am writing today to announce my candidacy to become the next Chair of the DFL Party — and to ask you for your support.

The fight in front of us will be very difficult as we are now facing a strident conservative majority both in Saint Paul and Washington D.C. The GOP and its well-funded allies will do whatever they can to stop the efforts of our Governor and President.

We will have to prepare to make sure President Obama is re-elected and that we send Senator Amy Klobuchar back to Washington for a second term. We will have to fight to make sure that we take back the majority in both the Minnesota Senate and House. We can accomplish these tasks, because we know that a grassroots party with all of us pushing together cannot be beaten.

As you consider the direction of our party, please think about the qualities that our party leadership should bring to the table. In order for our party to thrive we need to have successful fundraising efforts, effective strategic messaging and communications, and widespread coalition building. We need all of our allies involved in the process –activists, volunteers, elected officials, and donors. I strongly believe that my experience demonstrates that I have the qualifications that are necessary to successfully lead this party.

I also believe strongly that the leadership of the party should work as a team to build this organization and that is why I am excited to announce that Marge Hoffa has agreed to run with me as Associate Chair. I have worked with Marge over the years and have been incredibly impressed with her leadership as the Chair of the Third Congressional District. With her addition to this team, I believe that we have the skill set necessary to serve this great party well.

Growing up in Minnesota I learned the values of the DFL party at an early age. One of my earliest memories is joining my Mom at an ERA march at the State Capitol in the mid-70’s. Although she’s not with us anymore, she instilled in me a deep commitment to social justice and helping the least among us.

My senior year in high school I volunteered on a college professor’s campaign for the U.S. Senate and my life was changed forever. Paul Wellstone taught each of us that “we all do better when we all do better”. I later had an opportunity to intern for him and to this day he remains one of my political heroes.

I served as the Field Director for the DFL during the 1998 elections. It was here during this time, that I started my long relationships with many of you in the party. Traveling throughout the state, working with party leaders and candidates gave me a deep appreciation of how well run and organized our state party is. This is a testament to all of you who have spent countless hours building this organization. I look forward to being a continued partner with you in this endeavor.

Most recently, I worked as the Executive Director of WIN Minnesota and then served as the Director for the Gubernatorial Recount effort. I am proud to have been a part of the effort to elect a DFL governor and look forward to working under Mark Dayton’s leadership.

Marrying a farm girl from Wells also instilled in me a very deep appreciation for greater Minnesota. Countless days down on the farm with my boys are moments I will treasure forever. My sons, Sam (8) and James (6), remind me each and every day why I fight for our party’s values – better funding for public education, quality health care for all, good jobs in Minnesota and protecting the environment. These values we profess become much more meaningful to me when I think of the world that I want to leave for the next generation.

I will need all of your help to succeed in this effort. What has made the DFL great over the past 66 years is a belief that politics is truly from the ground up.

I look forward to speaking with each of you in the coming days and weeks to exchange ideas for the future of our party. I promise that I will work hard to earn your trust and support when we next meet on Saturday, February 5. If I am fortunate enough to be elected as the next chair of this great party, I will look forward to building a partnership with you in this important effort.

All my best,
Ken Martin

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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