In 2008, I was a purple-haired law student in her second semester at what was then Hamline University School of Law. I was of course familiar with the DFL because my dad had always been a strong DFLer. I was also politically inclined, having registered voters on my college campus and served as an election judge. But I had not yet done anything for or on behalf of the DFL.

One Tuesday night in February, my dad told me that I should come with him to precinct caucuses, assuring me that it would be fun. Skeptical, I bundled myself up against the frigid February night and together we made our way to Fridley High School.

When the time came for caucuses to convene, a deluge of folks descended on the High School. No one could have planned for the sheer volume of humanity that had arrived to cast a preference ballot in that year’s presidential race. There was also an open US Senate seat, which was itself quite a big draw. And let’s be honest, there are never enough volunteers. Seeing that there was a need for someone to direct traffic, I jumped into the midst of the throng and started pointing people to the right classrooms.

“What precinct are you?”

“Fridley 3-4!”

“You’re in room 107!”

“What precinct are *you*?”

“Fridley 2-1”

“You’re in the band room!”

These types of conversations played out over and over and over as people swarmed around me trying to find the right place to be. At one point, a woman I had directed advised a fellow attendee to, “Ask the girl with purple hair!” In the middle of that bustle, where I had found both place and purpose, I decided that I was hooked.

I landed in my own precinct just in time for resolutions. On a whim, I introduced a resolution of my own. I cannot remember the exact wording, but it was something like, “Therefore, be it resolved that the DFL supports legalizing marijuana.” My poor father was the caucus chair, and I’m sure he was embarrassed by his radical, hippie daughter who was almost certainly wearing tie-dye, but our neighbors dutifully debated the resolution and ultimately passed it on. Success!

I decided to become a delegate to the Senate District convention. The rules! The decorum! It was all so much. I had been to organized meetings so I had a passing familiarity with Robert’s Rules of Order, but conventions take “process” to a whole new level. It was overwhelming, but rather than give up, I embraced it and decided that I would learn everything there was to know about the process so that at our next convention, I was ready.

The time came to walking subcaucus in order to elect delegates to the state convention. There were a good 200 people crammed into the Columbia Heights High School cafeteria. Many were vying to be elected as one of the 15 or so delegates our Congressional District had been allotted, others were just there to help their preferred candidate/s earn more delegates.  I chose a subcaucus to join and before long I was standing on a cafeteria table, calling to fellow attendees in an attempt to swoop up stragglers and, on the second round, the members of any subcaucus that hadn’t been viable.

When the proverbial dust settled, my subcaucus managed to have earned two delegates and I was elected to be one of them.

The State Convention was in Rochester that year, as it is this year. I met fellow young people who, like me, were interested in the inner workings of the political process. It was amazing! The energy of the delegates in the convention hall was electric! Ballot after ballot was cast in the US Senate race, and eventually the endorsement went to my candidate. Hooray!

By then I had been going to the monthly meetings and had joined the committee planning the picnic to be held that August. Within a couple of years, I was elected to serve as the senate district secretary. In 2012, which was my fourth year with the DFL, I was elected to serve as Senate District chair, a role I held for four years. I now serve as your Senate District Outreach Officer, and if you live in New Brighton (or any other part of Congressional District 4) I serve you on the State DFL Constitution, Bylaws and Rules Committee. I am also an alternate to the State Central Committee, which is the governing body of the DFL between conventions.

Even though my hair is now the brown color I was born with, I will never forget that for me, it all started with precinct caucuses. I became a DFLer by trudging through the snow on a cold, Tuesday night in February when I should probably really have been home doing my homework. But whatever class I was underprepared for that following Wednesday is long forgotten. However, 10 years later, I’m still hooked on the DFL.

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Author: Rachel Nelson