It’s all over but the counting.
Although it is still mathematically possible for someone else to win, it appears highly likely Betsy Hodges will be elected mayor of Minneapolis this afternoon in the city’s second ranked-choice vote.
So likely that a scant two hours from the time polls closed Tuesday night the next highest vote-getter in the contest’s first round of balloting, Mark Andrew, essentially conceded the race.
A jubilant Hodges took to the stage moments later at El Nuevo Rodeo restaurant in Midtown. “We have been from day one a people-powered, grassroots campaign,” she told a remarkably diverse crowd. “Here’s to what we did today, Minneapolis, and here’s to tomorrow.”
Elections officials will begin the process of re-allocating second- and third-place votes from lower-ranked candidates early this afternoon at City Hall. They expect to be finished by the end of the day.
By the time the final results are tallied, a reconfigured City Council will also have been elected, including the country’s highest-ranking Somali-American yet. Abdi Warsame ousted three-term incumbent Robert Lilligren in the Sixth Ward.
Demographic shift, DFL realignment
“Minneapolis is going through a demographic shift and as a result what we’re seeing is the realignment of the DFL,” said David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University and an elections expert. “The coalition coming in is much more interested in social-justice issues and less wedded to a downtown agenda.”
The new slate, he continued, “is less beholden to traditional labor than the old generation, which should give Hodges and the City Council some maneuvering room.”
“We’ve succeeded in changing the conversation,” said Hodges supporter Peggy Flanagan, previously the first Native American elected to the Minneapolis School Board and current head of the Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota. “It’s now about equity for people of color.”
A two-term member of the council, Hodges, 44, is credited with helping to lead a controversial push to end what the city contended were overpayments to police and fire department retirees, saving Minneapolis taxpayers some $20 million. She had strong support from the progressive Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Andrew, by contrast, made it clear that he would stand by Minneapolis’ more traditional labor organizations, including the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. Minneapolis Public Schools is seeking several changes to the teachers’ contract, and while Andrew said he supported the policy changes he also said he believed they should be negotiated.
Most observers had predicted a close race in the 35-candidate field, possibly culminating in multiple rounds of vote counting as second- and third-choice votes were moved from losing candidates in a crowded field. Under the system, first used in 2009, the lowest-polling candidates and those who have no chance of winning are eliminated and their votes redistributed until someone has 50 percent plus one of the ballots cast.
Bottom 29 drew 9,000 votes
Insofar as the re-allocation is concerned, Schultz predicted that the redistributed votes from the bottom 29 candidates, who drew a collective 9,000 votes and who will be eliminated right away, won’t put Hodges over the top. She’ll need transferred votes from some of the top six, who drew 88.6 percent of the votes, he said.
More specifically, second- and third-place votes from number-four candidate Cam Winton should deliver the win, Schultz predicted.
To win, a candidate needs 40,051 votes. Hodges received 28,935 first choices, meaning she needs 10,686 from second- and third-place votes. She was named as second or third on 21,141 ballots.
Andrew’s votes won’t be re-allocated
The scenario under which she would not ultimately win would have half her second- and third-place votes coming from Andrew’s 19,584 voters. Because he remains in the race, those votes will not be re-allocated. Given the animosity between the campaigns as well as their pockets of support, it seems more likely Hodges’ re-allocated votes will come from the other front-runners.
Proponents of ranked-choice voting insisted that one side effect of the new process would be less negative campaigning as candidates attempted to appeal both to their own bases and to their opponents’ supporters, whose second- and third-choice votes the candidates might need.
Most observers had expected strong showings from Hodges, Andrew, council member Don Samuels and entrepreneur Winton. Samuels ended the night with more than 10 percent of the vote and Winton with slightly less.
As the election drew near, supporters of Hodges, Samuels and Winton began encouraging voters to rank the three on their ballots. At debates last week, Winton several times said he had voted absentee and ranked Hodges and Samuels as his second and third choices, although he refused to say in what order.
Andrew, by contrast, said he couldn’t name second and third choices. He was quite critical in the campaign’s early phases and seemed to warm only to former council member Jackie Cherryhomes. He made controversial statements about education at a labor forum during the summer, only to reverse himself at campaign events later.
Candidates’ views ‘evolved’ during campaign
Indeed many candidates’ views “evolved” as the campaign progressed — something that’s unusual in general elections, said Schultz. During primary races candidates typically attempt to appeal to their bases, and may sound more moderate after they win their party’s endorsement.
Ranked-choice voting was intended in part to replace poorly attended municipal primaries, which were easily controlled by interest groups. The process of winnowing a crowded field takes place during the vote re-allocation.
In the run-up to Tuesday’s election, Minneapolis voters heard candidates shift on key topics.
“They had a learning curve,” said Schultz, “both because of the shift in demographics in the city and how they needed to shift to appeal under ranked-choice voting.”
If in fact candidates are encouraging support for the rivals they like best, it’s a sign that ranked-choice voting is fulfilling one of its boosters’ goals: To give voters more voice in the process.
“It potentially suggests ranked-choice voting is encouraging coalition politics, and that’s good for the city,” said Schultz. He added that he would not be surprised to see Samuels’ and Winton’s key issues prioritized by Hodges’ administration.
If that were the case, it would hark back to the old-fashioned caucus, in which citizens brought concerns and ideas that trickled up to the winning candidate’s platform.
Samuels supporter Tom Klein spent election day getting out the vote on Minneapolis’ near north side. He knocked on front doors in neighborhoods that were so rough people answered his knock by leaning out of their second-story windows, he said.
Despite the relatively low turnout — some 30 percent of registered voters made it to the polls — Klein said most of the people he talked to had plans to vote, favored candidates and an understanding of the new voting system and issues they cared about.
From the stage Tuesday night, Hodges thanked her supporters for talking to their neighbors. The campaign held 40,000 conversations before last weekend’s get-out-the-vote push began, she said. In the final stretch there were 19,000 more.
“You know who did that?” she asked the roaring crowd. “You did that.”