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Six takeaways from the latest Minneapolis campaign finance reports

The amount of money raised by candidates and political committees offers a peek into the state of the race in the final days before election day.

Voting ends on Nov. 2 for the 2021 Minneapolis city elections.
Voting ends on Nov. 2 for the 2021 Minneapolis city elections.
REUTERS/Nicole Neri

It’s the final stretch before voting ends on Nov. 2 for the 2021 Minneapolis city elections. 

As candidates for mayor and City Council — along with the political groups formed to support or oppose three charter amendments on this year’s ballot — offer their closing arguments, the campaigns had to file finance reports this week. Here are six takeaways from those reports, which track the money raised and spent since the last reports were filed in August:

The biggest groups — on both sides of the public safety amendment — raised a lot of dough

As anyone who lives in Minneapolis can tell you, as the debate around the three charter amendments on the ballot picked up steam, so did the number of mailers voters received. That was especially true for the public safety ballot question. 

And while mailers aren’t the only thing the groups hoping to influence the vote have spent money on, they have been one indication of just how much money has been spent on this election. 

Both Yes 4 Minneapolis — the coalition responsible for the petition drive that placed the public safety amendment proposal to get rid of MPD on the ballot — as well as All of Mpls, the group that opposes ‘dismantling’ the police department, have raised well over $1 million since the last reporting period. 

Yes 4 Minneapolis raised $1.3 million during the reporting period, bringing its total for the year to $1.8 million. On the other side, AllofMpls raised slightly less than $1.5 million during the reporting period, bringing the total amount it raised for the year to $1.6 million. 

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Rent control opponents raised more than $4 million

For all the attention given the campaign around the public safety measure, it’s a group opposing Question 3 — which would change the Minneapolis charter to allow for the city council to implement rent control — that has managed to raise more money than any other. The Sensible Housing Ballot Committee — made up of property owners, realtors, building trades unions and local chambers of commerce — raised $4.3 million during the reporting period. That dwarfed the among raised by the main proponent of Question 3, Home to Stay Minneapolis, which raised $350,000.

Frey continues to outraise his opponents in mayoral race

The intense criticism of Jacob Frey’s performance as mayor and the presence of numerous candidates clamoring to unseat him has not impacted his ability to raise money. 

The first finance reports filed in August showed that Frey had raised more than $380,000 up to that point, which eclipsed the combined total raised by two of his most prominent challengers: Shelia Nezhad, who raised about $119,000, and Kate Knuth, who raised $136,000. At the time, AJ Awed was the only mayoral candidate to come close to Frey, raising more than $230,000 during that period.  

Since August, Frey has continued to outraise his competitors. His campaign raised another $292,000 during the most recent reporting period and has more than $150,000 left to spend. Knuth raised $91,000 during the period and now has $48,000 cash-on-hand; Nezhad raised $112,000 during the period and had just under $50,000 cash-on-hand; Awed raised $25,000 and now has $28,000 cash-on-hand.

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After falling behind in funding as a City Council candidate, it’s hard to catch up

As in the mayoral race, city council candidates who went into the most recent reporting period with more money tended to maintain that gap. 

In Ward 3, challenger Michael Rainville had $40,000 more money raised in August than incumbent Steve Fletcher. As of October, Rainville has raised $146,891 for the year, while Fletcher raised a little over $50,000 so far. 

Latrisha Vetaw, who is making a challenge in Ward 4, had a similar fundraising lead during the first fundraising period, raising $30,000 more than incumbent Phillipe Cunningham. Last week, Vetaw’s campaign reported raising a total of $100,000 for the year, which beats out Cunningham’s haul by nearly $60,000. 

Yusra Arab, a candidate challenging incumbent Cam Gordon in Ward 2, had a $20,000 fundraising advantage in August over another challenger, Robin Wonsley Worlobah. As of the latest reporting period, Arab’s fundraising lead has ballooned to $38,295. Arab has raised a total of $116,030 this year, while Worlobah raised $77,735. Gordon, after taking in a little more than $11,000 this reporting period, raised a total of $20,000 for his reelection this year, but also had just $991 of cash-on-hand

Though not many candidates were able to make up ground fundraising doesn’t mean its impossible to do. Kevin Reich, the incumbent in Ward 1, raised $4,000 less than his challenger, Elliot Payne, in the previous reporting period. Since then, Reich raised a little more than $26,000, and had more than $34,000 cash on hand as of the last reporting deadline. Payne, who raised $19,000 during the reporting period, now has just under $5,000 on hand.

Being a city council incumbent is still (usually) an advantage

In Ward 2, Arab and Worlobah have far outraised incumbent Green Party member Cam Gordon, one of only two incumbents not to have a fundraising advantage this year. The other is Ward 11’s Jeremy Shroeder, whose main challenger, Emily Koski, has raised $112,000 so far this year. Schroeder managed to raise just over $37,000 for his race. For the final stretch, Koski has nearly $60,000 on hand, while Shroeder has less than half that. 

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But ward races with incumbents typically go the route of the race in Ward 7. The longest-tenured City Council member, Lisa Goodman, has raised more than $170,000 so far this year to fend off two challengers, Nick Kor and Teqen Zea-Aida, neither of whom came anywhere close to that total. The incumbents in Ward 13 (Linea Palmisano), Ward 12 (Andrew Johnson), Ward 8 (Andrea Jenkins), Ward 6 (Jamal Osman), and Ward 1 (Reich) all have more cash on hand than their respective challengers in the final days of the election. 

Most of the best-funded council candidates are opposed to the public safety amendment

There were five city council candidates that raised more than $100,000 for their campaigns this year: Rainville, Vetaw, Goodman, Ward 10 candidate Aisha Chughtai, and Koski. Of those, only Chughtai is in favor of Question 2, eliminating the Minneapolis Police Department and replacing it with a new Department of Public Safety.