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Potential successors to Minneapolis Mayor Rybak already lining up support

It’s only been two weeks since he announced he’s not running, but already at least 10 citizens have expressed interest in taking his place.

Already at least 10 citizens have expressed interest in succeeding Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen

It’s only been two weeks since Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak announced that he’s not running for a fourth term, but already at least 10 citizens have expressed interest in taking his place, and that could be just the start.

The race for mayor usually begins quietly. People think about running. Then they start talking about running but only to a few good friends, a spouse or partner and trusted colleagues. If that goes well, they might actually file preliminary papers to enter the race.

Three of the city’s 13 council members — Betsy Hodges, Don Samuels and Gary Schiff — have taken that first step: establishing a Campaign Finance Committee.

Other familiar names in Minneapolis political circles are in the mix, too.

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Former City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes, for example, is going to run. Former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew is actively talking about a possible candidacy, and Park Commissioner Bob Fine is considering it.

Tom Hoch of the Hennepin Theater Trust and Minneapolis School Board Member Hussein Samatar is thinking it over, too.

And then there’s Grant Haas, who asked the DFL to list him as a candidate but didn’t give them any information about himself.

Park Board President John Erwin had been thinking about a run but has decided to stay where he is.

“I love being on the Park Board, and I love my job at the University of Minnesota,” said Erwin, a professor of horticulture. He said most of his supporters liked the way the Park Board increased services without raising taxes.

On Friday, the first Republican candidate surfaced. The Southwest Journal reported that energy corporation attorney Cam Winton has begun raising funds.

In alphabetical order, here’s a quick look at the other nine who have expressed interest and where they’re at in the process:

Andrew: “I’m the kind of guy who wants to talk to people and then decide,” he said. “I’m getting either good feedback or exceptional feedback. It’s going better than I thought.”

He would like to talk to more people before he decides to move ahead with an actual candidacy but says he is “very very interested” and much more likely to run than when he started testing the waters.  For the past seven years, Andrew has run the environmental marketing company GreenMark.

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Cherryhomes: “I’m past exploring.” She intends to have a few more meetings this week and then establish a Campaign Finance Committee. 

Cherryhomes has not been a stranger at City Hall since she left office. She is a registered lobbyist for clients Dominium Management Services and the Fish Guys.

Fine: “I am not running yet but I am seriously considering it.” He has served 16 years on the Park Board and on the Board of Estimate and Taxation. He also served 18 years on the Commission on Civil Rights.

Despite those credentials, he thinks of himself as “an outsider looking in” when it comes to city politics. He is also the only potential candidate, so far, who has run a citywide race and won.

Haas: The Minneapolis DFL web page lists one Grant Haas as a candidate for mayor. Fifth District Chair Dan McConnell said he doesn’t know much about the guy expect that he called and said he wanted to be listed, and so he is listed. There is more than one Grant Haas if you want to search.

Hoch: “I’m encouraged by what I’m hearing.” The president and CEO of the Hennepin Theatre Trust is in the talking and listening phase of exploring a run. “People started talking to be about this late last year.” Hoch said he had not given the idea much thought before speculation began that Rybak might not seek re-election. He also has worked for the city, serving seven years as executive director of the Public Housing Authority.

“I’m a complete novice,” he says of the political process, noting his concern about where the city  might be heading in the next two decades.

Hodges: “I have loved serving the 13th Ward.”  Hodges, chair of the Ways and Means/Budget Committee, does not plan to return to the City Council. She was the first to file her Campaign Financial Committee and lists longtime community activist Josie Johnson and DFL State Sen. Scott Dibble as her co-chairs. Many had counted Dibble as a potential mayoral candidate before his name appeared as a Hodges co-chair.

“I really look forward to the opportunity to drive the city forward,” said Hodges. “I want to make a great city greater.”

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Samatar: The executive director of the African American Development Center is also considering a run. The Minneapolis School Board member did not return repeated phone calls.

Samuels: The council member lists newly retired Police Chief Tim Dolan as his campaign chair. Samuels chairs the Public Safety, Civil rights and Health Committee, which frequently deals with matters relating to the Police Department.

“I have a strong vision for a well-integrated, very vital city,” said Samuels, who also wants to close the gaps in academic achievement. He does not plan to run again for his 5th Ward seat, if unsuccessful. “I’m burning all of the bridges,” he said.

Schiff: He will announce details of his political plans later this month but has been actively raising money for the mayor’s race and has registered a Campaign Finance Committee.

“I’m very very excited,” said Schiff, who plans to focus on making it easier to do business in the city and on creating jobs. Both of those themes have been evident in his council work, which includes chairing  the Zoning and Planning Committee.

His campaign co-chairs include Kim Bartman, a small-business owner; Bill Ziegler, executive director of the Little Earth United Tribes; and Mohamud Noor, who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2012.

None of these folks have to make a quick decision. Delegates to the Minneapolis DFL Endorsing Convention will be chosen during the April 16 precinct caucuses. The City convention takes place June 15.

Filings for office open July 30 and close Aug. 13. There is no primary this year because voters will use ranked-choice voting. The general election is Nov. 5.