Meeting (and mending) with Obama in the bowels of the Xcel center

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At the end of Barack Obama’s speech last night, roughly 20 audience members were whisked away to the bowels of the Xcel Energy Center to meet with the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The group, assembled by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman during the previous 24 hours, were supporters of Hillary Clinton. They included former Secretary of State Joan Grow, Minneapolis City Council members Barb Johnson and Gary Schiff, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Minnesota AFL-CIO president Ray Waldron.

DFL Feminist Caucus chair speaks out against “protest vote”
by Robin Marty, Minnesota Monitor

As presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, Barack Obama will need to heal the rift between his supporters and the faction that voted for Sen. Hillary Clinton. But one person he won’t need to immediately reach out to is Minnesota DFL Feminist Caucus Chair Mari Urness Pokornowski. “Surprised” by a Star Tribune article that ran May 30, Pokornowski does not agree with Feminist Caucus founder Koryne Horbal that women should write in Clinton’s name as a protest vote should Obama be the party nominee.

“We, the DFL Feminist Caucus, have never been a part of the efforts discussed in the Star Tribune article or other similar efforts. It was as much of a surprise to us/me as it was to you,” Pokornowski said in an email to Minnesota Monitor. Pokornowski made it very clear that the write-in campaign was initiated by Horbal and in no way reflected the views of the caucus as a whole. We have never spoken about this “protest” inside or outside our meetings, nor has one ever addressed it with us… It violates everything I believe as a person/DFLer.”

This is not the first time Horbal has been involved in an “alternative candidate” controversy. At the 1980 Democratic National Convention, Horbal garnered votes as a challenger to Jimmy Carter even though she wasn’t a candidate. Carter won the nomination, while Horbal got five votes.

After discussing the story with Minnesota Monitor, Pokornowski sent out a press release.

Press Release:

Statement of DFL Feminist Caucus President Mari Pokornowski

“I want to make it absolutely clear that assertions that the DFL Feminist Caucus is encouraging a “protest” write-in effort for Hillary Clinton in the general election for President of the United States, are absolutely false.

In addition, please be advised that neither me, or any official of the Caucus, had any involvement in promoting the Star Tribune article quoting a well known Minnesota feminist saying she personally would write-in Hillary Clinton for president as a “protest” and would encourage others to do the same. (“Feminist leader says no to Obama,” Star Tribune, May 30, 2008)

The DFL Feminist Caucus has never discussed this “protest” inside or outside our meetings nor has anyone ever address it with us. As president, I would have aggressively discouraged such an effort. Indeed, to promote such an effort would violate the very tenets of our political party.

Mayor Coleman introduced the Illinois senator to each individual and gave a brief talk about the bitter presidential campaign, evoking the seven stages of grief. Obama then thanked everyone for showing up at the rally and stressed the importance of Democratic unity in November. “He understood that this is a raw spot for a lot of people who had been supporting Senator Clinton,” says St. Paul Rep. Erin Murphy, who was among the attendees. “He promised to reach out and listen carefully to what the Clinton supporters were talking about and what they were interested in. It was a very classy and purposeful effort to begin to unify Democrats on the ticket.”

There was at least one apostate in the group: St. Paul City Council President Kathy Lantry, who says she’s a longtime Obama believer. “I said I don’t have lie, do I?” Lantry recalls, when Coleman invited her to the event. “And they said no.”

After the meeting Obama offered to pose for individual pictures with all of the Clinton supporters. Murphy instead cajoled him into talking on the cell phone with her 17-year-old daughter, an ardent Obama supporter. “That was pretty cool,” she says.

Lantry understands that some Clinton devotees may find it difficult to switch political allegiances. “Some of the women in that room have worked their entire lives to see the day of a real possibility of a woman president,” she notes.