If you had told me when I started this campaign that my own party would employ voter suppression tactics to try and defeat me, I wouldn't have believed you.
Then I heard the story of Wintana Melekin. Melekin has been engaged in politics and community activism from a young age and has proudly served as a DFL delegate for the past 15 years. After legitimately registering as a delegate for this year's endorsing convention through my campaign's website, she received a disrespectful and threatening text message asking her to confirm that she would like to be a delegate.
Initially believing this to be spam given the highly unusual nature of the text, she quickly realized that what was happening was a concerted attempt to harass delegates, later finding out that she had actually been removed from the delegate list for the convention.
I figured this was an isolated incident. After all, the DFL prides itself on its working class roots, fighting to make sure that everyone, not just the party elites, can participate in our democracy with an equal voice. But as the e-mails started pouring in, I realized this was far from an isolated incident:
Translators for some of our campaign's immigrant delegates were being restricted from the floor. Postcards and e-mails were sent to delegates with intentionally misleading information. Supporters were being lied to and turned away at caucus doors, and the party scheduled some caucuses over Ramadan, allowing no flexibility when it was pointed out that this would disenfranchise Muslim Americans.
On and on it went. Since March 1 our campaign has heard hundreds of stories about the strong-arm tactics the party has utilized to disenfranchise members of our community, particularly immigrants. This isn't who we are as Democrats: The DFL caucus and convention lost its way.
After Minnesotans were understandably outraged, the Fourth District DFL leadership met to save face, rolling back the tactics, and rightfully apologizing for their actions. But the damage had already been done.
When voter disenfranchisement tactics are used, they have intimidation effects far beyond any one election. Democrats know this — it's why we have united time and time again to block Republican attempts to roll back voting rights in Minnesota. The effects of these voter suppression tactics are deeply felt by the immigrant community, a community that feels burned and targeted by a party that was supposed to have their backs and be their champion.
As an organizer, I know just how hard is to get immigrant communities engaged in the political process, but I also know that when you do engage these communities in a thoughtful way, it pays off. Engaging and organizing in these communities built the diverse Democratic coalition that helped candidates like Joe Biden and Keith Ellison win statewide races. But all of that progress is in jeopardy. The effects of this ordeal will have reverberations on the party's relationship with immigrants for years to come.
It was a revealing moment for Minnesota's political establishment. Petrified by the prospect of losing their grip on power, party insiders who support my opponent, Rep. Betty McCollum, resorted to unprecedented tactics that went against every value they purported to have to save a 22-year establishment incumbent who stands for status quo politics.
My opponent had every opportunity to speak out against this injustice, but it was only when the outrage reached a fever pitch that she was forced to post a halfhearted statement. It is far from excusable, but it is almost understandable that my opponent would turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of a system she massively benefits from.
Despite all of the obstacles, we enthusiastically participated in the caucus and convention process this year because our campaign is committed to uplifting the marginalized voices that McCollum has been ignoring for years: Black and brown communities, working-class families, our LGTBQ community, people with differing abilities, first- and second-generation immigrants. We shattered records, outraised our opponent our very first quarter and witnessed a tidal wave of support from our local community.
So with or without my party's endorsement, I'm staying in this race. Because I don't believe we fix things by walking away. We do it by standing on our principles and making our voices heard. I will not step aside as an antiquated, broken establishment that's fighting tooth and nail to hold its grip on power silences my community.
The DFL has a responsibility to right this ship and repair the trust that has been broken between the party and the immigrant communities it's worked to disenfranchise. That healing can begin by halting the party endorsement process in the Fourth District. Anything less will send a message to every Democrat in Minnesota that their own party won't stand for the values that they believe in.
We pride ourselves on being the party of voting rights, democracy and inclusive representation. But when Democratic organizations engage in voter suppression tactics, it makes us no better than the Republicans who we decry as undemocratic. Now is the time for the DFL to stand up and finally do the right thing.
Amane Badhasso is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in Minnesota's Fourth Congressional District.