Handicapping the race for mayor
Mayor R.T. Rybak has announced that he will not run for a fourth term. So far, nine people have declared their intention to run for mayor. Eighty percent of Minneapolis voted for Barak Obama in the last election so one would expect the next mayor would be a Democrat. Today it would appear that there are three viable candidates for the DFL endorsement. These are current Council Members Gary Schiff and Betsy Hodges and former County Commissioner Mark Andrew.
Current Council Member Don Samuels, former Council Member Jackie Cherryhomes and activist Grant Haas have also declared as Democrats but none appear viable for the DFL endorsement at this time.
Conventional wisdom is that the DFL city convention will not result in an endorsement. The process does force the convention to winnow to two candidates. If it is allowed to work, an endorsement is possible. But if candidates pull quorum like Rybak did in two of his three conventions, the DFL party could effectively neuter itself in shaping the outcome of the race.
Two Democrats have said publicly they are considering a run but would announce after the DFL convention were they to run. Park Board member Bob Fine says he has not decided. Former chief-of-staff to R.T Rybak and current chief-of-staff to Mark Dayton, Tina Smith, said she is considering a run but will not decide until after the end of the legislative session, May 20.
Three other candidates have announced interest. Hennepin Theatre Trust CEO Tom Hoch and current School Board member Hussein Samatar have expressed interest but are not actively campaigning. Conservative Cam Winton has an active campaign but is not viable in a heavily Democratic city. The Green Party has not endorsed a candidate.
A number of questions will be answered in this election.
First, how will Ranked Choice Voting affect the outcome? Given the wide number of candidates, it is expected that no candidate will receive enough first place votes to win. How will this affect campaigning and the outcome?
Second, will anyone be able to stimulate higher level turnouts from communities of color? The Census reports that 33% of the population identifies as a race other than white. About 10% identifies as Hispanic. Will anyone be able to replicate what Obama did in engaging these traditionally low voting populations?
Third, will the changes in campaign finance affect Minneapolis? There are widespread rumors that if Tina Smith runs, she will be backed by a PAC of dark money provided by wealthy downtown business owners. Could the traditionally populist Minneapolis be swayed by unrestricted heavy spending from unknown donors?
Last, who can run the best campaign? The last presidential election showed the power of technology, of micro-targeting messages and of grassroots organizing tools. Who can best leverage that knowledge for this race?
DFL caucuses are April 16 and the city convention is June 15. Filings for office open July 30 and close Aug. 13. There is no primary because of ranked-choice voting. The general election is Nov. 5.