Minnesota state senate candidate gives speech while in labor, pausing for contractions
(FOX 9) - A DFL state senate candidate who went into labor the morning of the party's convention Saturday had to pause her speech as she went into a contraction, but ultimately pushed through to finish it.
The moment, filmed by people in the crowd, has inspired some observers who see it as an example of the strength women need to overcome the unique challenges they face in their careers, but many also saw it as another example of the unfairness of system and society that does not accommodate them.
Following the speech, former state rep Erin Maye Quade, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, withdrew from the nominating process after her opponent, Justin Emmerich, won the first round, 91-74. As Maye Quade then rushed to the hospital, Emmerich went on to win the final round unopposed, securing the party's endorsement for the Aug. 9 primary.
At 2:20 a.m., Maye Quade gave birth to Harriet Blake Maye Quade, almost exactly 24 hours after her labor began, according to her spouse, Alyse Maye Quade, the former political director for the Minnesota DFL.
"Mom and baby are healthy and resting!," Alyse told FOX 9.
Some party activists have criticized Emmerich for not asking the convention to stop once Maye Quade had to leave.
The DFL candidate for MN district 66, Clare Oumou Verbeten, said in a Facebook post that the incident reminded her of how racial inequities in the healthcare system impact Black women.
Emmerich spoke to FOX 9 after the convention. "I'm just focused on running the race and winning in November. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that we keep the seat in DFL hands." He also added that he hopes the baby is happy and healthy.
Emma McBride, the political director of the Women Winning and a campaign surrogate, said that before either candidate knew the results of the first round, Maye Quade directly approached Emmerich, told him that she could not stay the whole day and asked if he would be willing to suspend the convention and go directly to the the primary, but he refused.
Emmerich could not be reached to respond.
Upate: He issued the following statement on Monday:
"First, let me offer my congratulations to Erin and her wife on the birth of their daughter. My wife and I are expecting a daughter in August, and as a parent, I know what a special time this is.
An endorsing convention represents the best of the DFL’s commitment to grassroots participation and engagement. When Erin notified me and Senate district leadership that she was in labor, we met to discuss accommodations. I readily agreed to all of them, as did the convention delegates by unanimous consent.
Had there been a formal request from Erin or any of the delegates to suspend the convention in order to hold it at a later date I would have agreed, however no such request or motion was made. I continue to believe an endorsement is in the best interest of our efforts to keep this seat in DFL hands and to flip the Senate in November.
After the first ballot had been completed, I received word from a member of my campaign that the results showed me leading by 55-44 percent (1 percent abstaining). I was on my way to talk to my floor manager to verify this information when Erin pulled me aside. She asked if I would be willing to suspend the convention and take the race to a primary since it appeared to be about even. I responded by saying I hadn't verified the count yet and would get back to her. She said that was fine. However, before I was able to speak with her again, she made the decision to suspend her campaign."
DFL sources familiar with the convention rules told Fox 9 that either candidate or a delegate could have motioned for the convention to be suspended. McBride said since any motion required support from two-thirds of the delegates, they didn't consider it a viable option without Emmerich's support.
"We needed both campaigns to agree to suspend for it pass. It didn't feel like a real option for us," McBride said.
Maye Quade's campaign manager, Mitchell Walstad, questioned why the convention had gone forward in the first place.
"After having time to think about it, the thing that was most jarring to me was the expectation, at least that we felt, from the day and the process for her to push through this when a lot of other serious medical concerns would not be met with that same expectation," he said.
McBride added that the experience had been intense for campaign staff.
"I think all of us there on Erin's team were feeling like a wide array of emotions. Obviously, feeling terrible for her that she has to go through this, worrying about the stress and her health and the baby's health and then also just being in awe of the display of strength that we all witnessed," McBride said.
Senate District 56 Chair Nancy Stroessner sent the following statement on behalf of the SD56 leadership:
"Ours is a big-tent party, and the SD 56 DFL Party is committed to ensuring as many people as possible can participate in our convention and endorsement process.
Going into our convention, we learned that Erin Maye Quade was in labor but wanted to be present and move forward with the endorsement process that day. SD56 leadership met with her and Justin Emmerich to discuss what accommodations we could make to better facilitate her participation. Erin asked that we move the Senate endorsement as early in the convention process as possible, which was acceptable to everyone in that meeting. The changes were presented to the convention, which the delegates supported unanimously.
When Erin ultimately requested to withdraw from the endorsement process, we did not second-guess her decision. Plus, for reasons of fairness, our convention chairs cannot unilaterally close or delay the endorsement process. If a delegate had wanted to postpone the endorsement, they could have made a motion for postponement, which the convention would have then voted on. No such motion was made.
We are so excited that Erin and Alyse now have a beautiful little girl—Harriet. We wish them all the happiness in the world. We are also excited that we have endorsed candidate Justin Emmerich, who we can support to ensure DFLers flip the Minnesota Senate blue this November."
How the Maye Quade campaign says the day proceeded
In the days leading up to the convention, Maye Quade's doctor advised her to stay off her feet, but that was easier said than done, according to McBride.
"That's not necessarily super possible when you have to go door-knocking and talk to delegates and go to events in the final days of one of the milestones in an election," she said.
McBride said that Maye Quade went into labor at 2 a.m. the morning of the convention and stayed up all night deciding whether to proceed.
"'She decided to come to the convention because we know how critical it is for a candidate to be at the convention to talk to delegates," McBride said.
When it came time for the candidates to speak at 11 a.m., Maye Quade's contractions were arriving about every 20 minutes. When she approached the podium, her staff realized that one could happen at any moment.
She made it about three-fourths of the way through., McBride says, before the contraction started.
In the video, she pauses before saying a line about strengthening public infrastructure, then says "excuse me" and leans over, exhales and bows her head as the crowd cheers in encouragement.
"We had somebody ready to go to jump in for her if she wasn't able to recover. But she's super strong, and she took the time to pause to go through the contraction and then jump right back into her speech," McBride said.
The speeches were followed by a Q&A section. As Emmerich fielded a question, Maye Quade had another contraction, but she was ready once the mic was passed to her.
"I think that she was just in a place of focus and knew that this is what her campaign had been working for months and months. And was just willing to do whatever it took at that moment to show up to the convention for as long as she could," she said.
Emmerich won the first ballot with 55 percent of the votes, with Maye Quade at 45 percent. At that point, McBride said Maye Quade was drained from having pushed through the day and urgently needed to go to the hospital. Her team decided that they didn't want to continue without her present.
"We didn't think that it would be a fair process without Erin there to do that persuasion work, to build those relationships, to advocate for herself, to make decisions for herself. We just knew it wasn't going to be a fair process. And on top of that, she had to leave. It wasn't an option at that point for her to stay there any longer," McBride said.
McBride questioned why the senate district leadership hadn't moved the convention once it became clear that Maye Quade was in labor. The events of the day illustrated why, in her view, electoral processes should be as accessible as possible for women and people with disabilities.
"It's a really vulnerable thing to be giving birth, to be in labor, to be in that much pain in front of a couple of hundred people… and I think it also just underscored the importance of making sure our systems are inclusive and accessible to all women," she said.