Meuers resigns as Senate 4 DFL chairman

Long-time DFL activist Michael Meuers this week resigned as state Senate 4 DFL chairman, in the middle of an intense battle for Senate 4 party endorsement.

Long-time DFL activist Michael Meuers this week resigned as state Senate 4 DFL chairman, in the middle of an intense battle for Senate 4 party endorsement.

His resignation comes as Irene Folstrom and Mary Olson, both of Bemidji, are marshalling their supporters to attend next Tuesday's DFL precinct caucuses where a straw poll will be taken among caucus attendees to assess their endorsement strength.

Delegates elected from the precinct caucuses will play a role in endorsing either Folstrom or Olson on April 8, with the winner then set to focus on unseating incumbent Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, who is seeking re-election to a second, four-year term.

Meuers, asked in a telephone interview Tuesday night if the Senate race had bearing on his resignation, said, "as Senate district chairman, sure, I guess it does."

But Meuers refused to reiterate reasons, saying he stands by his e-mail letter of resignation late Sunday night to Martha Johnson of Backus, the Senate 4 DFL associate chairwoman.


"It is my belief that one of the reasons our party has been successful is that we have great respect for each other and we maintain our unity," Meuers states in his letter. "I take personal pride in promoting unity and respect and have worked very hard to maintain those qualities within the party.

"However, over the last month or more I have felt powerless to control divisive and destructive rumors that while totally unfounded, have nonetheless taken their toll on my family and me," Meuers adds. "I am truly frustrated that whatever I do will be perceived by some as disrespectful and or unfair.

"While I love the DFL and will continue to be a strong party activist, I regret that I can no longer continue in my role as party chair," Meuers wrote.

Both Folstrom and Olson have waged hard-fought battles for delegates, and in urging caucus attendance. Folstrom has an added level of support, as a Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe enrollee, in having the official support of the Leech Lake Tribal Council, according to the tribe's official newspaper.

Meuers said Tuesday night that, with more than 25 years experience in party politics, he has been willing to offer advice to any candidate asking for it, and strongly believes he has adhered to that principle.

"I chose my words very carefully," he said of his letter of resignation. "It's more an internal DFL document; it was not a press release. Those who know, know. Michael Meuers is not that important, in my opinion."

According to the State DFL Party's constitution, Meuers' resignation, which took effect with his letter, immediately elevates Johnson to Senate 4 DFL chairwoman.

"I am sad as we'll miss his leadership," Johnson said Tuesday night in a telephone interview. "He has done a great job as chairman. We have a convention to set up and we will go ahead and do that."


Democrats will gather April 8 in Walker to endorse Folstrom or Olson in the Senate race, and also split into separate House districts to endorse there. House 4B has two candidates in Ron Berry of Walker and Doug Cadwell of Pine River. House 4A is expected to endorse the re-election bid of Rep. Frank Moe of Bemidji.

"There has been a lot of positive energy from these candidates," Johnson said.

Asked if Meuers' resignation will affect the Senate 4 DFL campaign, Johnson said Folstrom and Olson "are very good candidates who are moving forward to give Carrie Ruud a battle."

Both women "are articulate and are becoming more and more informed on the issues," Johnson said. "They are talking with people, and both have grown a lot. Each one of the candidates could give Carrie Ruud a very tough battle."

According to DFL rules, the Senate 4 hierarchy needs to elect an associate chairman. Also according to DFL rules, the top two positions must be gender balanced, meaning the second spot must be held by a man.

Johnson, however, said unless someone is willing to step in, her preference is to wait until the April 8 endorsing convention, when district officers will be elected anyway.

Meuers, in his letter, notes his 12 years as Beltrami County DFL chairman, in addition to the two he's served as Senate 4 chairman. He has also served as at-large director of both the State DFL Executive Committee and 7th Congressional District DFL Executive Committee.

In 2004, he was elected by state DFLers as one of 10 presidential electors, gathering in St. Paul to cast electoral votes for Democrat John Kerry, who took Minnesota in the 2004 election.


"Over more than a quarter century, I have been an active Democrat and have worked tirelessly to promote DFL candidates, the DFL Party and all that it stands for," he wrote. "I feel very honored and humbled that during this time the party has allowed me to serve in many different capacities.

"Perhaps my proudest and greatest honor has been to be the only non-Indian to serve on the non-partisan Red Lake Voter Education Committee," he added, referring to a Red Lake Band of Chippewa effort.

In the telephone interview, Meuers said he will remain active in DFL politics, now able to choose the candidates he wishes to work for.

"But the only campaign manager I'll be is for my wife," he said, referring to Barbara Meuers, a Bemidji City Council member. "I'm not putting up yard signs for candidates, but I enjoy the chess game, the strategy of campaigns."

Meuers said he also wants a break from partisan politics, saying he very much enjoyed being an organizer of last fall's Hurricane Katrina effort in Bemidji, the First Sister City campaign, which raised $15,000 for a New Orleans Boys & Girls Club.

"I felt good doing something for people, and I want to do more things like that," Meuers said.

What To Read Next
Get Local