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‘People wanted a fresh start’: Election ushers in new mayor and five new council members in Minneapolis

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Mayor-elect Jacob Frey: "I think now more than ever we need bridge-buildings — plural — and we need to collectively come together and recognize while we do deviate in strategy we do have the same overarching goals."

It took a while, but once Minneapolis election results started flowing on Wednesday, the winners came in quick succession.

“Your #MplsMayor results are In,” read the Tweet from Minneapolis Elections at 1:52 p.m. “Jacob Frey has been elected.”

Then, less than 20 minutes later, at 2:09 p.m.: “Steve Fletcher is elected.” At 2:57: “Alondra Cano is re-elected.” One minute later, “Jeremy Schroeder is elected.” At 3:20, it was Phillipe Cunningham’s turn. Only seconds later: “Jeremiah Ellison is elected.”

What wasn’t stated in the Tweets — but quickly became clear — is that voters in Minneapolis had turned out an incumbent mayor and three incumbent city council members. Among the casualties were 11-year Council President Barbara Johnson, Council Ways and Means Committee Chair John Quincy and Public Safety Committee Chair Blong Yang.

After initial numbers came in Tuesday night — revealing the number of first-choice votes but little else — such results weren’t unexpected. But the official vote counting Wednesday allowed the reality of it to sink in: that the city will have a new mayor and a drastically altered city council.

The trend line was finally broken shortly before 4 p.m. when the clerk’s office announced that incumbent Kevin Reich had narrowly defeated challenger Jillia Pessenda. Still, three incumbents had lost. Add those to the two open seats decided this week and it means five of the 13 council members will be newcomers when the new Minneapolis City Council convenes in January.

‘Got to be together’

Shortly after getting the word from the Minneapolis city clerk’s office that he had been elected, Frey spoke to a hastily gathered gaggle of reporters at his Hennepin Avenue campaign office.

“People wanted a fresh start,” he said.

One of his first tasks, he said, is to unify the city. “We have been a divided city in so many respects. Division between police and community, divisions between businesses and activists, we even had divisions in the DFL party. And I think now more than ever we need bridge-buildings — plural — and we need to collectively come together and recognize while we do deviate in strategy we do have the same overarching goals.”

When Frey was asked about a Tweet from open government advocate Tony Webster, who said that Frey had work to do, starting with “the Frey campaign’s alienation of activist-progressives, a group he’s going to have to work with as mayor,” the mayor-elect answered by repeating that he was one of the first council members to come out for a city minimum wage more than three years ago. “That’s not a right position; that’s not a centrist position. But we are in this period of time when there is a push for ideological purity, this attempt to villainize people and groups that may disagree only on one thing. And that mentality has got to go.

“If we want to collectively move forward, it has got to be together,” he said.

Hodges, who seemed to recognize on Tuesday night that she had slim hopes of winning, conceded shortly after the results were announced. “I recently spoke to Jacob Frey and congratulated him on his victory,” Hodges said in a statement released by her campaign. “I told him that I know he loves Minneapolis and that I am committed to a smooth transition.”

She called her term “the greatest honor of my life,” thanked her supporters and ended her statement by saying, “Thank you, my beloved Minneapolis, from the bottom of my heart.”

‘Diggin’ it’: going under the hood of an RCV election

That Frey won wasn’t a surprise after seeing how the first-choice votes were allocated among the candidates Tuesday night. But how it played out as fifth and fourth place candidates were eliminated offers a view into the complex politics of the city.

First, when the 11 also-ran candidates had their second and third-place selections applied to the top five contenders, the votes were distributed pretty evenly, though Frey and Tom Hoch took more than the others. But when fifth-place finisher Nekima Levy-Pounds was dropped, her voters had a significant impact on the race. Her voters’ second and third-place selections went heavily to Raymond Dehn and Hodges, bumping Tom Hoch, who had been in second place going into that round, down to fourth, and pushing Dehn to second while keeping Hodges in third.

That meant that it was Hoch who would be eliminated in the next round, not Dehn, a development that meant Frey would pick up votes, because the bulk of Hoch’s second and third place votes went to him. That expanded Frey’s lead so much that when Hodges was eliminated and her votes were distributed relatively evenly between Frey and Dehn, Frey was declared the winner. He ended up with just under 45 percent of the total votes cast due to the fact that many ballots — nearly 23,000 of them — were cast for candidates not among the final two, becoming what RCV terms “exhausted ballots.”

Hodges too had not ended with a majority in 2013, finishing that election with 49 percent.

The council races had a similar flow of votes, with first-place winners on election night ending up winning all but two of the races. One of the exceptions to that development was Barbara Johnson, who held a very narrow election-night lead over Phillipe Cunningham. Cunningham ended up winning the race after third-place finisher Stephanie Gasca voters’ second and third selections were counted.

And in the election for Ward 3’s open seat, Socialist Alternative candidate Ginger Jentzen had a lead but not nearly a majority on election night. Fourth-place finisher Samantha Pree-Stinson’s votes didn’t change the order, but when third-place finisher Tim Bildsoe was eliminated, his second and third-place selections went overwhelmingly to Steve Fletcher, changing a 500-vote deficit into a 1,000-vote victory.

On election night, city elections staff had already given unofficial declarations of victory to Ward 2’s Cam Gordon, Ward 7’s Lisa Goodman, Ward 8’s Andrea Jenkins, Ward 10’s Lisa Bender, Ward 12’s Andrew Johnson and Ward 13’s Linea Palmisano.

At his press conference, Frey was asked his opinions on ranked choice voting, which was getting its usual election-time criticism for complexity and delay.

“We won, so I’m digging it,” he said.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Sheila McGinley on 11/09/2017 - 11:33 am.

    Article on Jacob Frey

    Mr. Frey sounds like he is still campaigning for office in this interview. He has won the election, now it is time to get to work. To act as though he is not going to face similar challenges working with the city council and the police federation as Mayor Hodges did is pure fantasy. Swagger all you want, Mayor-elect Frey, you will still have a lot of work ahead of you. Dig it!

  2. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 11/09/2017 - 04:26 pm.

    RCV Majority

    So RCV never did end up with a majority unlike what it guarantees.

  3. Submitted by Kathie Noga on 11/09/2017 - 06:00 pm.

    People wanted a fresh start

    I am afraid Mr. Frey will have to consult Ray Dehn on how to proceed on a number of areas, since Ray had the most detailed plan. It is sad that the moneyed interests screwed up our election with the Republicans getting in there in the mayor’s race and Lisa Goodman race. We should ban this kind of money. Ray and Dr. Pounds were the top people did not take this kind of money. No candidate should be doing this. Mr. Frey also took money from Bob Kroll, the union chief, who has a very checked record with the community and did not return it until people complained. This is not right. I wanted a more principled person in there. At least I will have a good representative in the State. Frey is not progressive and that is false advertising. He was rated at 36% by progressive organizations. I can’t stand my City Council member, Lisa Good man. She is 11% progressive and she ended up with money from that Republican front organization. People need to look at how people are actually voting out there when they are deciding on how to vote. I do like that Barb Johnson did not get in there and we got Jeremiah in there. Too bad people with allergies, asthma and chemical sensitivity will have to still keep out certain portions of the park. People really missed a great chance to help the children and most vulnerable people in the parks by not voting Our Revolution at large. People got too obsessed about helping middle class people who want to use the golf course. The park board members that got in are not progressive at all. One of them supported the Walker upgrade which decimated 200 trees. This is very sucky. Our city is supposed to be progressive. Next time I hope they wise up. I do not see Jacob as someone who will reform the police, since he wants more of them. You have to make sure you have good training and good quality officers in the first place. More won’t help. We need job training and other service more than having more police. We will have to do more protesting out there.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/10/2017 - 02:59 pm.

      I hope not

      Dehn’s policies are detailed, but they aren’t very good – which is probably why voters chose Frey.

  4. Submitted by Arthur Swenson on 11/10/2017 - 08:41 am.


    Bob Petersen: Would you rather have a mayor elected with 25% of the votes?

    That would have been the situation if Frey had been declared the winner on Tuesday night, based on the first choice ballots.

  5. Submitted by George Carlson on 11/10/2017 - 02:54 pm.

    Jacob Frey’s plan – the most developed

    Kathie Noga – John Rash and Patricia Lopez of the StarTribune editorial team were interviewed on WCCO radio yesterday (Nov. 9) and said that Jacob Frey was the only Minneapolis mayoral candidate that provided the team with written developed position papers on every topic and that, in contrast with other candidates, he spoke articulately on these positions without needing his staff providing corrections.

    In that interview, Rash and Lopez indicated that each was very impressed with Frey, his positions, and his command of those positions. And the editorial team endorsed Frey based in part on that interview.

    You might consider retracting your statement that “Frey will have to consult Ray Dehn on how to proceed on a number of areas, since Ray had the most detailed plan.”

  6. Submitted by Daniel Pinkerton on 11/12/2017 - 02:14 pm.

    6th ward disappearance

    The 6th ward contest between Warsame and Noon was a close race and a dramatic story, yet once again, it is absent from stories about the election. Why the silence?

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