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Dan Cohen, former Minneapolis council member, says he may run for mayor

His decision depends on whether the DFL endorses one of six candidates.

Dan Cohen

Former City Council Member Dan Cohen has decided he will run for Minneapolis mayor if DFLers do not endorse a candidate at the party’s June 15 citywide convention.

“I’m waiting for the big event,” said Cohen, who would run as an independent. “You can’t run against an endorsed Democratic candidate because no one can win against an endorsed Democrat. It’s a fool’s errand.”

There are currently seven candidates, with six seeking DFL endorsement. The race also includes one Republican, but he is not seeking GOP endorsement.

Cohen , 76, served on the Minneapolis City Council as a Republican in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when the Republicans held a majority of council seats.

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He was City Council president in 1969 when he ran for mayor as a Republican but lost to an independent, Charles Stenvig.

Cohen currently serves on the Minneapolis Planning Commission and the city Charter Commission.

This past weekend, he spoke at a meeting conducted my members of the Somali community that included other mayoral candidates.

“Somalis aren’t represented on the boards and commissions in this city,” said Cohen, who has written, along with others, to Mayor R.T. Rybak asking that members of the East African community be included in the decision-making process in Minneapolis.

Cohen has long been an advocate for a downtown casino and would make that one of two major campaign issues.

“A downtown casino would take care of a lot of debt,” said Cohen, who thinks the current downtown Post Office near the Mississippi River would be an ideal location. He also says the casino would create jobs and provides Minneapolis with a year-round tourist attraction.

A downtown casino would need the blessing of the governor and Legislature, but Cohen sees the possibility of a public referendum as a means to that end.

His second issue in a mayoral campaign would be to renew his battle with the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune.

An active Republican in 1982, Cohen distributed details about the 1970 arrest record of Marlene Johnson, then the DFL candidate for lieutenant governor, to four reporters in exchange for their promises that he would not be named as the source of the information in their stories.

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(For her part, Johnson, age 24 at the time of her arrest, said she had “forgotten” to pay for a $6 sewing kit because she was distraught about her father’s death a month earlier.)

Two of the four reporters who wrote about the arrest record — Lori Sturdevant of the Star Tribune and Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press — had their promise of anonymity overridden by their editors.

Cohen lost his job with a local advertising agency and sued Cowles Media, then the owner of the Star Tribune. The case went all of the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices decided the Star Tribune had breached an oral contract between the reporter and a source.

“I sure as hell can hold their feet to the fire,” said Cohen in reference to the Star Tribune. He is now taking the newspaper to task for not disclosing details of the planned sale of five downtown blocks of land to a developer.

Cohen thinks his two platform items, a downtown casino and his ongoing war with the Star Tribune, give him a unique position on issues that could attract support.

“My campaign is distinct from that of the other candidates,” said Cohen, who also thinks ranked-choice voting could help him win votes.