There were the electoral nail-biters involving the nearly 3 million Minnesota votes cast Tuesday, the proposed constitutional amendments, control of the statehouse, congressional races that were beyond tight. … Oh yeah, and the presidency.
And then there was the hard-fought, drama- and intrigue-wracked school board contest in Minneapolis’ newly created District 4. As of this writing, it has not been established whether Josh Reimnitz will maintain his 575-vote margin over Patty Wycoff. A hand recount of some 5,500 ballots cast in three city precincts will not be completed until Thursday, and the loser may demand a recount.
Adding to the tension, the seat in play may determine the swing vote, as it were, in Minneapolis Public Schools’ future negotiations with its teachers union, which has enjoyed enough board support in recent years to resist contract changes district leaders say are stalling needed reforms.
To put a finer point on it, Reimnitz, a Teach for America alum and nonprofit administrator, favors including factors beyond seniority in layoff and other staffing decisions. Wycoff, a substitute teacher and parent activist, was endorsed by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT).
Avalanche of endorsements
The stakes drew an avalanche of endorsements, donations, get-out-the-vote efforts and murmuring campaigns. As-yet-undisclosed independent expenditures were made on each candidate’s behalf, the MFT in support of Wycoff and the education reform group 50CAN, parent of the local MinnCAN, in support of Reimnitz.
(Disclosure: 50CAN Board Member Matt Kramer is the son of MinnPost Editor and CEO Joel Kramer, something I haven’t discussed with either.)
The precincts in question, 10-1, 10-2 and 10-8, voted in Jefferson Elementary in the Wedge neighborhood, at the VFW post at Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue and in Whittier International School in the Whittier neighborhood.
The location of the last of the polling places invites speculation that Reimnitz can hang onto his lead. It’s just north of Carmel Mall, a Somali shopping mall that is a must-visit for anyone courting the city’s very active East African voters.
Reimnitz campaigned there and earned the endorsement of the brand-new New Americans Political Action Committee, which worked to educate immigrants on education-related electoral issues. A number of other new groups also held candidate forums, likely a key reason MFT-supported candidates did not fare as well this year as traditionally.
Carla Bates won easily
Two of the three other board candidates, Tracine Asberry and Kim Ellison, ran unopposed. The third, incumbent Carla Bates, won with 68 percent of the citywide vote. The sheer number of votes Bates garnered appeared to be a record.
In an interview Wednesday, Bates called the Wycoff-Reimnitz race a watershed. “I do think that the District 4 race signals some real change in school board politics,” she said. “That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
Education, she noted, accounts for 40 percent of the state’s budget, and MPS’ operating budget is as large as the city’s. “I think it’s OK that it’s becoming important enough for people to really look at,” she said.
A final bonus fun fact: Reimnitz produced an upbeat earwig of a video, “Vote for Me Maybe,” in which he sings and dances about the race and the achievement gap.
Turns out he’s a parody song buff whose bucket list includes producing the world’s largest ouvre of North Dakota political parodies. Stands to reason that if he loses the election that’s a more than achievable goal.