May 26, 2022

DFL Party Announces Humphrey Mondale Award Winners

During this year’s Tenth Annual Humphrey Mondale Dinner, the DFL Party will honor five Minnesotans with awards for their important contributions to the DFL Party and Minnesota politics. The five awards, Mondale, Humphrey, Wellstone, Freeman & Growe are named after historic DFL leaders whose legacies continue to inspire our movement to build a better Minnesota for all.

“The Minnesota DFL Party would not be where we are today without the tremendous leaders we will be honoring at this year’s Humphrey-Mondale Dinner,” said DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin. “While the specific work these leaders have done is quite different, from building grassroots political power to championing Greater Minnesota in the legislature and more, they are all working towards the same goal of improving the lives of Minnesotans everywhere. These five leaders have faced down long odds in the fight to build a better Minnesota. Their triumphs and achievements are a credit not only to themselves, but to our political movement and to the great men and women that helped shape our DFL Party throughout history.”

The Hubert H. Humphrey Award for Dedication and Leadership to the Minnesota DFL:

Cheryl Poling – Chair of the 3rd Congressional District DFL Party

As the Chair of the 3rd Congressional District DFL Party, Cheryl Poling’s activism is a testament to the impact that a strategic and long-term focus on building power for a political movement can have. Poling’s hard work and dedication to organizing her community were integral to flipping what was once a Republican stronghold into a reliably blue Congressional District. Poling also works hard to elect candidates who share our party’s values to the state House and Senate, and the evidence of her success is visible in flipped legislative and municipal districts throughout the 3rd Congressional Districts. Poling is a wealth of knowledge and campaign experience who does everything she can to ensure organizing units within her districts have the tools and resources they need to succeed. Political change is not built from the top-down, but from the ground up, and nobody knows this better than Cheryl Poling. Her focus on finding candidates to run for local offices and building power from the ground up has done wonders for the 3rd Congressional District. Cheryl Poling’s contributions to our DFL Party, our progressive movement, and to Minnesota in general are innumerable and we are tremendously grateful for her leadership.

The Joan and Walter Mondale Award for Public Service:

Melisa López Franzen – Minnesota Senate DFL Leader & State Senator (District 49)

Senator Melisa López Franzen was first elected to the State Senate in 2012, when she flipped District 49 from red to blue after defeating former Chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, Keith Downey, in a fiercely contested campaign. Since her election, Senator López Franzen has been working tirelessly to champion the needs of Minnesotans everywhere. Senator López Franzen worked successfully to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota, enact free, all-day kindergarten, and raise the minimum wage. Senator López Franzen has also advocated for policies to close racial disparities in health care and education, worked to legalize adult-use cannabis, and fought hard to secure paid family and medical leave for Minnesota workers. Ever since she was elected Senate DFL Leader, Franzen has worked to draw a sharp contrast between the DFL Party’s advocacy for public schools and working people and the Republican Party’s prioritization of tax breaks for the already wealthy. The people of Minnesota are fortunate to have a leader like Senator Melisa López Franzen advocating for us at the State Capitol.

The Paul D. Wellstone Award for Lifetime Commitment to Organized Labor:

Rick Varco – Political Director of SEIU Minnesota

Rick Varco’s first major foray into politics came in 2000 when he attended a Senate District Convention and heard then-State Senator Jerry Janezich talk about running for the U.S. Senate because “there are 85 millionaires in the Senate, but not one bartender.” Varco started volunteering on his campaign and began what has been a long and distinguished career of fighting for working people. When Varco joined SEIU in 2001, he helped build a member-focused program that worked to amplify the voices of SEIU members and give them the tools to advocate for themselves. Varco believes passionately that the best way working people can influence their political leaders and their workplace is by banding together and to achieve a common goal. In 2017, Mayor Melvin Carter appointed Varco to Co-Chair the Citizen’s League Minimum Wage Study Committee to bring together a diverse set of stakeholders from business and labor to explore raising the minimum wage in St. Paul. Though the committee had a wide array of opinions, they were able to reach a consensus through hard and diligent work, which ultimately led to St. Paul passing a $15 an hour minimum wage and indexing it to inflation. Varco’s dedication to working people throughout Minnesota is clear throughout all he has done, and is a credit to our DFL Party and our movement to build a better Minnesota.

The Orville L. Freeman Award for Distinguished Service to Greater Minnesota and Agricultural Issues:

Paul Marquart – Minnesota State Representative (District 4B)

Representative Paul Marquart began his career of public service when he was elected to the Dilworth City Council in 1988, and by 1990, he was elected as Mayor of the City of Dilworth. Representative Marquart was then elected to the Minnesota State House in 2000 and has served Minnesotans in that capacity for the last 22 years. In addition to serving on the Education Finance and Ways and Means Committees, Representative Marquart chairs the Tax Committee in the State House, where he’s fighting to cut taxes for working and middle-class families. During his tenure in the House, Representative Marquart helped Minnesota fully fund all-day kindergarten for the first time in state history, and he spearheaded important property tax relief for farmers on school building bond projects, which lowered the tax burden for farmers and helped improve school funding in Greater Minnesota. Throughout his time in public service, Representative Marquart has been a staunch advocate for ensuring that communities in Greater Minnesota have what they need to get ahead and stay ahead. Representative Marquart’s commitment to delivering for folks across the state exemplifies the best in our party and we are lucky to have him advocating for us in St Paul.

The Joan Growe Award for Distinguished Commitment to Expanding Access to Democracy and Justice in Minnesota:

Carlos Mariani – Minnesota State Representative (District 65B)

Representative Carlos Mariani was first elected in 1990 to the Minnesota State House, and he has held this position for the past 32 years. During that time, Representative Mariani has been instrumental in the fight to build a more just Minnesota. Thanks to Representative Mariani’s leadership, our state passed the Minnesota Police Accountability Act after the murder of Geroge Floyd in Minneapolis. Representative Mariani also helped pass the Minnesota Prosperity Act, which offered financial aid to undocumented students who are ineligible for Pell Grants. Additionally, Representative Mariani authored and led the fight to pass the Learning English for Academic Proficiency and Success Act (LEAPS), promoting linguistic capacity of emerging multi-lingual Minnesotans including those whose first language is not English, and the Achievement and Integration in MN Act (AIM) re-establishing Minnesota’s school racial integration revenue program to combine academic outcomes with racial integration efforts. We are tremendously grateful for Representative Mariani’s work to build a more fair and just Minnesota for everyone who calls our great state home.

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