The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 4, 2014

Reporter's Notebook: 1st District Democrats fear voter apathy

MANKATO — Keeping DFL and youth voters engaged during non-presidential election years was the urgent focus of the 1st Congressional District DFL endorsement convention held on April 26 in Faribault.

DFL Chairman Ken Martin praised the achievements of the DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature this biennium. But he warned activists at the convention that these achievements could be undone if they lose control of the Legislature this election.

"Republicans are banking on DFL voters not turning up at the polls," Martin said.

He blamed the Republican wave in the 2010 election on the majority of DFL voters not turning out at the polls. The 2010 wave gave Republicans control of the Legislature for the first time in decades.

"Republicans are going to take us back. They're going to take us back to days we don't want to go back to," Martin said. "I'm not going back to before people were covered for pre-existing conditions. I'm not going back to before people of color could vote."

The concerns about low voter turnout and DFL voter apathy were echoed by nearly all of the DFL candidates and regional activists that spoke at the convention.

The issues may be amplified this year because Democrats are already trying to deal with looming voter backlash over the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act on the federal and state levels. Regional activists have indicated this may fuel an anti-incumbency sentiment in November.

Notably, Democrat incumbents Rep. Tim Walz and Sen. Al Franken, who addressed the convention, have indicated they are willing to emphasize their defense of the health care law in their campaigns this year.

Franken said criticism was inevitable due to the sheer scale of the law. But he argued the majority of voters are interested in fixing the issues instead of repealing the law.

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