The organizer

My good friend, Rep. Paul Thissen, recently announced his retirement from the state House. Paul has been an outstanding leader in the legislature for 16 years, a vocal advocate on issues from health care to women’s economic security.

Paul had the distinction of presiding as the House Speaker and helping shepherd the deliberations and passage of the historic law granting the freedom to marry to all Minnesotans. He has a great legacy to be proud of. And now, Southwest Minneapolis has an important opportunity to choose new leadership.

I believe Jamie Long is the new leader we need. He’s the right choice for District 61B.

We need a representative in Southwest Minneapolis who can continue to make real change for the better on the issues we all care about. We need someone who knows how to use the legislative process to grow progressive power and how to build relationships.

But most of all, we need an organizer.

Folks might know that I come from the front lines of movement building — organizing and fighting for social justice and an economy that works for everyone. Those fundamental democratic values are under attack in our country, from President Trump’s mass deportation and promotion of bigotry, to Congress’s tax giveaways to the ultra-wealthy — not to mention the Republican leadership back home pushing our state back into deficits after years of surplus. The daily onslaught can be overwhelming.

Policymakers of good will are fighting back, but it’s a mistake to think we can do it alone. The only way real change has ever been made in this country is when regular people come together and fight for what is best for themselves, their families and their community. That’s why the best legislators aren’t just policy wonks; they’re people steeped in the work of organizing communities, mobilizing people — making real progress.

Paul Wellstone talked about three components to building a people-powered politics (the “Wellstone Triangle”): community organizing, good public policy and electoral politics. I can think of few people with as much experience in all three of these areas as Jamie.

I came to politics through the movement organizing around the HIV/AIDS crisis. Jamie came to politics through the environmental movement.

As a young activist at Carleton College, Jamie founded a student environmental group. Among their achievements were pressuring the college to install a wind turbine and the creation of a Responsible Investment Committee so the college’s wealth would not support injustice. He took his organizing to Washington, D.C., working on climate and clean water advocacy with the Natural Resources Defense Council while attending law school.

Jamie brought his organizing skill and his passion for justice back to Minnesota five years ago. He channeled that energy and ability into running Congressman Keith Ellison’s Minnesota office, helping build community power to propel a comprehensive progressive legislative agenda.

Jamie has also been active in Southwest Minneapolis, leading his neighborhood council and serving on the board of a local environmental nonprofit, where he is spearheading efforts to build a community solar garden. Jamie knows our community because he’s a part of our community. And he knows how to bring neighbors together.

Jamie also knows good public policy. Serving ten years helping shape and move ideas into action within Congress, Jamie has a depth of policy understanding that would make him an immediate asset in the legislature. He represented Congressman Ellison at the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee and helped craft the most progressive platform in our party’s history.

He has particular expertise on an issue close to my heart — transportation — working on the Environment and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate to ensure our federal transportation bill wasn’t just about cars and roads, but connecting people to opportunity. I’ve also sought his insight in strategy sessions as I drew on community wisdom to develop a criminal justice reform policy agenda, an area he knows well from his time practicing law.

Jamie is also no stranger to the third part of Wellstone’s triangle: electoral politics.

In the very tough 2014 midterm elections, which saw the largest Republican gains in a century, Jamie ran Ellison’s re-election campaign. Not content to simply win, they set a goal of boosting turnout.

My team and I worked closely with Keith’s team to knock apartments in Southwest Minneapolis, and it paid off. While statewide turnout went down 5 percent, turnout in the 5th District went up 3 percent, helping buck the national outcome and ensure wins for DFL statewide candidates, some who only won because of the margins we were able to deliver.

Jamie also ran Ellison’s race to be chair of the Democratic National Committee, which resulted in Ellison’s appointment as deputy chair and an expanded voice for progressives at the national level.

Jamie knows how important elections in Southwest Minneapolis are for the rest of Minnesota.

61B is one of the top three DFL turnout districts in Minnesota, but nearly 8,000 fewer people vote in the district in non-presidential elections. With Gov. Dayton winning by just 9,000 votes in 2010, the district could make the difference in the critical upcoming governor and senate races.

Jamie’s campaign has already been doing impressive organizing to engage voters, and I know he will continue his efforts if he’s the endorsed candidate to focus on the voters we need to turn out in 2018.

This political moment calls for a leader with proven electoral chops and organizing experience. Someone who knows organized people can beat organized money and knows how to get those people on their feet to claim their own power. A leader who knows politics — but isn’t your average politician.

That leader is Jamie Long.

I hope you’ll learn more about him at jamielong.com and consider supporting him in the Feb. 6 DFL caucuses.

Sen. Scott Dibble

District 61

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