“The Blue Wave of 2018 cannot be about politics as usual,” said Michelle Lee, candidate for Congress in the 8th Congressional District of Minnesota. “Progressive Democrats can win in 2018 with people powered campaigns connecting face-to-face and through social media with communities who felt excluded from the process. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez proves big money and the existing power players in the party don’t have to be how we elect candidates.”
Lee left her role as a television news anchor at the end of 2016, attended the Women’s March in Washington DC on January 21, 2017, and spent the next year learning to be political. Lee tweeted, attended her local DFL meetings, and went to her first precinct caucuses on February 6, 2018. Congressman Rick Nolan decided not to run for re-election a few days later. Within hours, Lee went from a first-time caucus attendee and delegate to a first time political candidate. “I had been to trainings with Vote! Run! Lead! and Camp Wellstone, but they did not really prepare me to be a candidate for Congress with no political experience.”
Nolan had one challenger, Leah Phifer, on caucus night. After Nolan announced his retirement, the DFL field of candidates expanded to include four other candidates, three of whom were recruited to run by Nolan himself, and Michelle Lee. Phifer suspended her campaign within days of failing to secure the DFL endorsement.
Lee said, “Since February, my campaign has been reaching out to Democratic voters across the 8th District. We have often put more time and energy into communities left behind by the DFL and former campaigns.” Lee added, “Our campaign’s goal is to engage the Democrats feeling left behind by the party process and the candidates retreating to DFL strongholds.”
In addition to encouragement from Congressman Nolan, Lee’s opponents all have strong ties to the party power brokers including a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) staffer, two have garnered partial support of Minnesota Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk who co-hosted a fundraiser for one in St. Paul on Thursday June 21 and will co-host an event tonight with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey for another. The co-host list includes major Democratic donor Pam Deal and fundraising bundler Ambassador Sam Kaplan.
“I feel energized and inspired by seeing Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez win her primary. She and I are both candidates who are not expected to run for Congress. We are not career politicians. We are not policy experts. We are caring and compassionate listeners who know Congress can do better for our communities,” Lee said. “A few weeks ago, the Radinovich campaign distributed its poll numbers to the media. His poll says he and I are a toss up to win the primary. It’s discouraging how little news coverage and analysis made of that poll.”