Nov 17, 2022 - Politics

Twin Cities Democratic Socialists score wins

Illustration of a fist clenching a rose

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Democratic Socialists in the Twin Cities made small but notable gains in last week's midterm elections.

What happened: All six of the candidates endorsed by Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America β€” including four state lawmakers β€” won their races.

  • The results effectively double the size of the DSA-aligned caucus at the state Legislature. One member, St. Paul Rep. Athena Hollins, won a House leadership post last week.

Why it matters: The small but growing cohort of DSA members holding office in Minnesota could push for a wider embrace of the movement's progressive politics and policies, including within the Legislature's new DFL majority caucuses.

Reality check: Four safe DFL seats in a 201-member body β€” or one on a local government dais β€” does not a majority make. Buy-in from more moderate Democrats is needed to pass both state and local measures.

Yes, but: Samuel Doten, a local DFL activist who leads an independent Democratic Socialists Caucus in Minnesota, says the dynamics will put DSA-backed members and issues "at the table" in a way they weren't before.

  • "When it comes to the most important...working class issues: public housing, health care, education, all these really fundamental things, I know that the agenda of socialists is going to be there," Doten tells Axios.

Zoom out: Democratic Socialists have gained influence in public office and polls in recent years, as U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders' presidential campaigns and the 2018 election of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought new attention to the movement.

Zoom in: All four of the legislators elected in Minnesota last week were running in safe DFL districts in Minneapolis or St. Paul.

  • Other successful candidates were incoming Robbinsdale City Council Member Aaron Wagner and Ramsey County Commissioner Mai Chong Xiong.

Flashback: Sen. Omar Fateh, a self-identified Democratic Socialist, made headlines when he defeated a longtime DFL incumbent to win a Minneapolis district.

  • Three DSA members were also elected to the Minneapolis City Council in 2021. The council's more moderate majority has prevailed on most issues so far.

What to watch: Hollins, who became a DSA member in 2020 and sought the group's endorsement for the first time this year, says she sees DSA priorities related to workers' rights, including paid family leave and pro-unionization bills, having the best chance of passage under a DFL trifecta.

  • "I think there's great opportunities to make big strides there this year," she said.
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