Abena Abraham, co-founder of the Black Immigrant Collective says she is excited and cautiously optimistic after Democrats in Minnesota achieved a “trifecta” in November’s elections, winning the governorship and both the state Senate and state House. Photo: Courtesy Black Immigrant Collective

After a grueling election season, Minnesota Democrats are indulging in the fruits of their labor.

Minneapolis residents gathered on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at Bauhaus Brew Labs on one of the coldest days this year to celebrate an unprecedented victory in Minnesota’s legislative history. A happy hour mixer hosted by Pro-Choice Minnesota, an organization that advocates for reproductive rights, honored the wins of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), as the Democratic Party is known in the state.

In November, Governor Tim Walz retained his seat in the race against Republican Scott Jensen. In the state legislature, the DFL not only held its majority in the House of Representatives, but also able to flip the Senate, creating what is called “trifecta,” when one party controls the governorship and both chambers.

“This is such an important moment for policy in Minnesota,” said Kate Baxter-Kauf, a local attorney. “It’s a long-awaited victory.”

A happy hour mixer hosted by Pro-Choice Minnesota on December 10, 2022 to celebrate the DFL winning all branches of Minnesota government. Photo: Panashe Matemba-Mutasa/Mshale

Although many expected the DFL to retain control of the house, few expected the Senate to flip on election night. It is the first blue trifecta the state has seen since 2012. Democratic supporters now hope that with the new mandate, they can tackle hot-button issues like marijuana legalization, climate change, funding for education, and paid family leave. Also on the agenda is access to abortion and reproductive rights groups like Pro-Choice Minnesota have been working to ensure that women can continue to have the procedures safely.  Minnesota is considered an “island state” surrounded by states that have voted to restrict abortion.

“Abortion access in Minnesota is one of the most important civil rights issues at the moment, and Minnesota is a beacon of access in the Midwest as other states are rushing to limit that freedom,” said Baxter-Kauf.

People continued to shuffle into Bauhaus Brew Labs as the hours went by, some letting out sighs of relief as they had just escaped the bitter cold. Partygoers were shoulder-to-shoulder as they watched their drinks being prepared at the bar. They repeatedly raised their drinks and toasted as they talked about what they were most excited about in this new political season in Minnesota. Sen. Erin Murphy, who was re-elected to represent District 64 after defeating her Republican challenger Robert Bushard, said that she was looking forward to continuing being an integral part of creating an inclusive Minnesota, specifically, by combating white supremacy and advocating for women’s reproductive rights.

“I deeply honor the work of Black Minnesotans and will call for reproductive justice,” Murphy said. “The work to advance our freedom in America is unfinished and I won’t quit.”

Since 2020, when a Minneapolis Police Department officer murdered George Floyd and sparked nationwide protests, Minnesota has been in the crosshairs of civil rights activists. Black Minnesotans began calling for change at the legislative level, and now they will be keenly watching what Murphy and other lawmakers do to tackle white supremacy.

Abena Abraham, an immigrant of Ghanaian and Liberian descent and co-founder of the Black Immigrant Collective, said that she was both excited and cautiously optimistic about the election results. She said that the level of work would need to be ramped up in order to create sustainable change for Minnesota’s Black communities.

“We will have to work twice as hard to ensure that our voices are heard,” Abraham said.

Abraham also talked about the impact of having Black women elected to the senate for the first time. Zaynab Mohamed in District 63, Erin Maye Quade in District 56, and Clare Oumou Verbeten in District 66 all won their races against their Republican challengers, making history as the first Black women in Minnesota’s statehood to do so. Abraham said that while she was elated to hear the news and what it meant for Black Minnesotans, she still had her concerns.

“While it is exciting to have three Black women in the senate, we know that they are working in a system that wasn’t designed for them,” Abraham said. “We must be prepared to be on the defensive to make sure that we are amplifying the voices.”

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About Panashe Matemba-Mutasa, Mshale Reporter

Panashe is a general assignments staff reporter at Mshale.

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