On the Road to Victory with Susan Allen

June 11, 2013

Minnesota State Rep. Susan Allen knows a thing or two about sticking up for what she believes in. Again and again, Rep. Allen has taken on big fights, and tough odds, and won for a bold progressive cause.

A member of Rosebud Sioux tribe, Allen became a lawyer to focus on tribal justice. Today, she is the State Representative for district 62B in Minneapolis. She’s also a leader nationally, and is the first Native American, lesbian woman to be elected to state office in the country. Her road to elected office went through Camp Wellstone. And her work to govern with conviction is thanks in part to her continued connection with us.

After a childhood filled with moving from city to city and reservation to reservation, Allen found a community in South Minneapolis’ Powderhorn and Bryant neighborhoods. So when a State Representative seat in her neighborhood opened up, she knew it was time to continue her fight for justice in the halls of government. And one of her first stops was at a Camp Wellstone:

"The exercises at Camp Wellstone focused on fleshing out why I wanted to run and what I had to offer.  It helped me figure out exactly what I wanted to accomplish and to develop my message.  Camp Wellstone also gave me the time to think about how to deliver on my message; it was a major part of what I got out of the weekend."

So Susan Allen got to work. She faced a competitive race for the open seats and the prejudicial headwinds that still exist when running for office while being a member of the Native American community and openly gay. But she won the Wellstone Way, by leveraging grassroots support, speaking directly with voters, and sticking with a consistent message about economic and social justice that resonated with the community.

After she won, Rep. Allen took part in a Wellstone Action event that brought together elected officials from across the state. The event was critical as Rep. Allen was beginning her career as an elected official, “It gave me a framework about how to govern not just effectively, but progressively,” she said.

Since her election, Allen’s leadership has been rooted in the Wellstone Triangle: embracing her community’s rich collection of grassroots organizations to win elections and enact progressive policies.

Today, Susan Allen continues to credit Wellstone Action for helping her start her campaign on the right track:

"Staying grounded allows me to apply strategies of advocacy to advance social and economic justice issues in the legislature. Wellstone Action helped me stay focused on what my campaign was fighting for: economic and social justice."

With over 600 alumni in elected office, Wellstone Action continually dedicates itself to helping progressives not just on the road to Election Day, but also to win progressive change once they’re in office. That dedication is especially strong when it comes to developing Native American leaders who take on important fights to address the economic, social, political, and cultural issues facing Native communities. We’re proud that Susan Allen won the Wellstone Way and we’re especially proud that she continues to govern the Wellstone Way.