BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. – Chalk up another political victory for workers, as strong union supporter Chris Eaton won a special election for a Minnesota state senate seat this fall. She got 61.85 percent of the vote, breaking a jinx for Democratic Farmer Labor Party and labor-endorsed candidates.
Although the suburban Senate district in Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, Minn., favors DFL and labor-endorsed candidates in high turnout regular elections, they have lost three low turnout special elections there in recent voting history.
Until this year.
In the 2010 general election, 19,095 people voted in the state senate District 46 race. In this year’s special election, only 5,455 people voted. Eaton won 3,374 votes compared to Republican Cory Jensen’s 1,782 votes.
Despite low voter turnout, Eaton polled a majority in each of the district’s 22 precincts, earning at least 53 percent in every precinct. She won 60 percent or more in 13 precincts.
“I never expected to win that big,” Eaton said. “I was excited to win every precinct.”
The win resulted from lots of hard work by the Eaton campaign and from the independent efforts of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation and its affiliates.
“We had a lot of people who normally don’t get excited about special elections; who didn’t take it for granted this time,” Eaton said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It was absolutely amazing.”
The Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation organized volunteers to staff phone banks calling union members who live in the district. Affiliated unions sent out letters to their members in the district. And a canvas run by Working America, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate, door-knocked in the district.
“Everyone stepped up,” said MRLF president Bill McCarthy, thanking affiliates at the MRLF delegate meeting Nov. 9. “She won by more than 60 percent. It was a big deal.”
Eaton said voters were motivated by concerns about the state budget from the last legislative session. “Everybody’s feeling overwhelmed by property taxes,” she said.