Minneapolis’ next city election, in which the entire 13-member council will be on the ballot, is in 2021. It’s the first chance residents have to vote since a group of council members mounted an attempt to “dismantle” the Minneapolis Police Department.
But one the most prominent names behind that effort won’t be on the ballot. Lisa Bender, president of the Minneapolis City Council and representative of its 10th Ward, said on Sunday she will not run for re-election.
She made the announcement in an email to her 10th Ward constituents, which includes the neighborhoods of East Harriet, ECCO, Lowry Hill East, South Uptown and Whittier. In that message, Bender said she made the decision to bow out of the highly-anticipated 2021 election “well before multiple crises hit the city,” referencing the pandemic and its economic constraints, and the death of George Floyd and subsequent unrest.
In a move that made news around the world, Bender and eight other council members appeared at a rally in Powderhorn Park shortly after Floyd’s death to declare their intention to end traditional policing and create a new form of public safety in Minneapolis.
In her email announcement, Bender listed a series of accomplishments since she was first elected in 2013, including instituting a $15 minimum wage and guaranteed paid sick time for workers in Minneapolis, and the 2040 comprehensive plan, the first by any major U.S. city to end single-family zoning.
In tackling those issues, the Minneapolis council made national headlines for their boldness, and sometimes for sparking controversy, with the decision to support “dismantling” police being only the most prominent. The move was greeted by pushback by some city residents, including a group of eight North Minneapolis residents suing the city over the city’s minimum required police staffing level.
“Although she is a ‘progressive’ and made a bold attempt to dismantle policing in MPD, she made the mistake of not developing relationships with the diverse Black community in Minneapolis that’s impacted the most,” said Minneapolis NAACP vice president Anika Bowie.
Bender emerged from the especially tense 2017 city election as a coalition-builder. When she ran for council president, she won unanimously. Though Councilmember Andrea Jenkins ran against Bender for council president, Bender threw her support behind Jenkins for council vice president in order to build unity. “During my time in office I have learned so much about people, about power and about how systems work to support or to stop change,” Bender said in her email. “I still believe in the power of each and every person to make a difference. I have seen it.”
She went on to thank everyone who has worked with her on the council, and thank supporters in Ward 10.
Another factor in Bender’s decision to not seek re-election may have been the upcoming election schedule. Due to a state law requiring Minneapolis to hold City Council and Park Board elections soon after city redistricting, city council elections in 2021 will be for two-year terms. Then, in 2023, the council will run again for two-year terms in order to sync it back up with the city’s mayoral election. The election in 2025 will be for a four-year term.
Bender did not say what her plans are after leaving city council.