The Minneapolis City Council has taken nearly 3,900 votes since January 2022, when the current members began their terms. The vast majority of those votes — all but 231 — were unanimous, according to a MinnPost review of voting data.
But the moments of disagreement on the City Council were telling, highlighting ideological differences among members on issues ranging from public safety and homelessness to transportation and the powers vested in Mayor Jacob Frey.
Council members’ records on close votes also help illustrate what’s at stake in November’s election, during which Minneapolis voters will choose representatives for all 13 of the city’s wards.
Here’s what a MinnPost’s review of the voting data showed:
Of the 51 closest votes of the current City Council term, 41 have featured a bloc of more-liberal members — Jason Chavez, Aisha Chughtai, Elliott Payne and Robin Wonsley — opposing a group of more-moderate members — Lisa Goodman, LaTrisha Vetaw, Michael Rainville, Linea Palmisano and Emily Koski.
The four remaining council members fall somewhere in-between. On two-thirds of these close votes, Jeremiah Ellison has sided with the liberals. Andrea Jenkins, Jamal Osman and Andrew Johnson have typically voted with the moderates, though all have also cast a handful of votes with their counterparts further to the left.
Moderates seeking reelection
Already, candidates are lining up for the November election in hopes of tipping the council’s current balance of power. One way to observe this: the Minneapolis DFL’s endorsement process.
Many — though not all — of those candidates are clamoring for the local DFL party’s endorsement. The party determines who wins its endorsements ward by ward. Campaigns often urge their supporters to attend precinct caucuses to elect a slate of delegates to a ward-level convention. Once there, these delegates vote to decide who wins the party’s endorsement in that ward’s race.
Though Ward 13 delegates gathered in early April to endorse incumbent Palmisano, this past weekend marked the beginning of the Minneapolis DFL’s convention season. Delegates in each of the remaining 12 wards have scheduled endorsement meetings on weekends through May 21.
Last weekend, delegates in four wards gathered, virtually or in-person, to vote on their endorsements. At the convention for Ward 3 — which covers much of downtown, downtown-adjacent areas of Northeast, the North Loop and Marcy-Holmes — 72% of delegates voted to endorse the incumbent, Rainville, over two more-liberal challengers.
“I’m a labor Democrat,” Rainville said after the endorsement vote, noting his history as a member of both the Teamsters and hospitality unions. “I worked my way through college loading and unloading trucks. I have a great life because of the labor movement … I represent the ‘L’ in DFL and after today, I represent the ‘D.’”
Rainville has cited housing, public safety and homelessness as the most crucial issues in the race, and on the closest votes, the council member has often sided with other moderates, and with Mayor Frey.
For example, last October, Rainville’s “no” vote helped block progressives from pausing homeless encampment closures. Though a majority of the council did approve a request for a fiscal analysis of these sweeps, Rainville opposed the move — and the mayor ultimately vetoed the request.
Rainville also supported Frey’s hires for director of the Office of Community Safety and for the then-city coordinator’s job over objections from the more liberal bloc.
Liberals look to gain ground
One of Rainville’s challengers, Conrad Zbiekowski, dropped out after the endorsement vote — but the other more-liberal opponent, Marcus Mills, will remain in the race in hopes he can flip Ward 3 “from a conservative voice to a progressive voice” on priority issues like housing and public safety.
“We need to move forward, and the move forward is going to require a more progressive majority,” Mills said. “We need to see that happen — and it’s not going to, unless people stand up to do it.
Mills indicated he’d seek to align himself with more-liberal incumbents like Payne, Wonsley, Chavez, Chughtai and Ellison.
One example of a policy this bloc pushed to passage at council: adding parking restrictions to the controversial Hennepin Avenue reconstruction project. (The mayor ultimately vetoed this move.)
They also withheld their support from Frey’s picks for public safety and emergency management director — and while Ellison voted for the creation of the city’s Community Commission on Police Oversight, the remaining four opposed it. (Opponents had argued the new commission wouldn’t lead to meaningful accountability for police.)
Further bolstering their progressive credentials last week, Chavez, Wonsley and Chughtai all received endorsements from the Twin Cities chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. Local DFLers also endorsed Chavez and declined to endorse in the Ward 2 race — which was what Wonsley wanted. The DFL convention in Chughtai’s ward is scheduled for May 13.
“There’s a great deal of real unity between a number of the different factions of the left,” said Mills, who doesn’t “necessarily” identify as a socialist himself, but that the ideological diversity makes the city’s politics more vibrant: “I have been very proud to be able to say, in all corners of the country, that Minneapolis has a two party system and the Republicans aren’t one of them.”
One of the most intriguing clashes brewing is in Ward 8. The incumbent, Jenkins, is a trailblazing trans politician with a long track record in local DFL politics. On the 51 closest votes, Jenkins voted nine times with the council’s liberals — including, for instance, a 2022 maneuver to pause demolition of the Roof Depot warehouse (that Frey ultimately vetoed).
However, Jenkins most often sided with the council’s moderates and now faces a challenge from her left: Soren Stevenson has already won the Democratic Socialists’ endorsement and is seeking to claim the DFL endorsement later this month, too.
‘A politics that doesn’t exist within a binary’
Another Democratic Socialists-backed candidate has already pulled off that double-endorsement feat: A little more than 60% of Ward 12’s DFL delegates voted to endorse Aurin Chowdhury, who currently works as a policy aide to another member of the council’s liberal wing (Chavez). Chowdhury hopes to use her connections to both DFL party leaders and to the local socialists chapter to her advantage.
“I believe in a politics that doesn’t exist within a binary — that’s local government,” said Chowdhury. “Let’s build a big broad coalition that’s inclusive and brings in all these different types of voices.”
Candidates in Ward 12 are looking to replace retiring incumbent Andrew Johnson. On close votes since January 2022, Johnson has voted with the council’s moderate wing about twice as often as he’s sided with the liberals.
Another Ward 12 candidate, Jerome Evans, indicated he would drop out after the endorsement convention, according to audio of a candidate Q&A posted by Wedge LIVE. Nancy Ford also said she would remain in the race.
Behind Chowdhury, Luther Ranheim won the second-largest number of votes at the Ward 12 convention. He said that the DFL gathering represented a small fraction of the ward’s voters. He’d likely be running in a more moderate lane, though he said he’s “not trying to advance an ideology.”
“I think I do have a path to victory,” said Ranheim, who is continuing his campaign, “because I can meet Ward 12 where they’re at, and I think I best represent them when it comes to policy.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained a version of the voting graphic that misspelled Aisha Chughtai’s last name. The graphic has been updated.