Jacob Frey wins race for Third Ward

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November 5, 2013 // UPDATED 10:13 am - November 13, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie & Ben Johnson
Jacob Frey at his election night party with his father Chris (left) and City Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward).
Photo by Kurt Holz
Sarah McKenzie & Ben Johnson
VIDEO included

Attorney and community organizer Jacob Frey will be the new leader for the city’s Third Ward after he is sworn in at City Hall in early January with his fellow Council Members and Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges. 

Frey won a decisive victory in the race for Ward 3 on Election Day — beating incumbent City Council Member Diane Hofstede by a wide margin with 61.31 percent of the votes compared to Hofstede’s 26.59 percent.

Libertarian party candidate Michael Katch and Green Party candidate Kristina Gronquist each hovered around 6 percent for first place votes.

Frey had a significant lead in first place votes in all nine of the ward’s precincts. He was especially dominant in precinct 3 (the Nicollet Island/East Bank neighborhood) and precinct 7 (the North Loop neighborhood). Hofstede had the most second place votes of the candidates. 

Frey has also raised significantly more than any other candidate running for City Council this year. He has fetched more than $100,000 in donations since he launched his campaign last year. Hofstede, who has served two terms on the Council, raised less than half of that and reported $42,383 in campaign contributions, according to campaign finance reports filed Oct. 29.

“What we’ve accomplished today — these kind of numbers — have so very little to do with me,” Frey said at an election night celebration at Elsie’s packed with his supporters. “These numbers have everything to do with the amazing grassroots organization that we’ve put together.”

Frey had an aggressive ground game and spent the summer door knocking throughout the ward with campaign volunteers. He has also attracted a strong following on social media platforms and even had a smartphone app for his campaign, which alerted users to his whereabouts and made it easy to make donations.

At candidate forums and campaign events, Frey said he’ll work to make the ward more family friendly and collaborate with other community leaders to attract more residents to Minneapolis.

When asked for her reaction about the race’s outcome on election night, Hofstede said she’s focused on moving forward and plans to help Gov. Mark Dayton with his re-election campaign. 

“I’ll be working for Gov. Dayton. He’s been a great supporter and I want to see him get reelected,” she said. ”Onward. I’m just moving forward.”

In a post on her campaign’s Facebook page, Gronquist had a positive message about the outcome of the election. 

She wrote: “Success! We made a real difference in getting the Green message out to voters and in pushing serious issues on to the agenda: 47 percent of Ward 3 voters voted for me yesterday as one of their three choices. That’s 2,854 people! Thank you to everyone for your support!”

The new Third Ward features neighborhoods downtown and east of the Mississippi River.  

City Council Member Lisa Goodman (Ward 7), who ran unopposed in the election, has been a strong supporter of Frey’s campaign. 

“I could not be more proud of the campaign Jacob ran and his enthusiasm and commitment to this ward and special part of our city,” she said. “He will be a great addition to the City Council and I am thrilled my constituents will have him as their council member, they will be well served.”

Frey is one of seven new faces that will make up the 13-member City Council in January. Other newcomers include Blong Yang (5th Ward), Abdi Warsame (6th Ward), Alondra Cano (9th Ward), Lisa Bender (10th Ward), Andrew Johnson (12th Ward) and Linea Palmisano (13th Ward).

Frey, Warsame, Cano, Bender and Palmisano all secured the DFL Party’s endorsement for their respective Council races.

Frey won the endorsement at the Ward 3 DFL Convention on May 4 at DeLaSalle High School after Hofstede dropped out of the endorsing process and criticized it for being flawed for discouraging older residents and East Africans from being involved.

Frey vehemently criticized that suggestion at the convention.

 “What you see right now is a rising tide — a rising tide of seniors, of young people, of students, empty nesters, Somalis, young professionals and local business owners — all rallying around a common cause, which is very much a new Minneapolis,” he said at the convention.

The convention was packed with supporters wearing Frey T-shirts and Jay Ludke, Frey’s campaign manager, said they had internal tracking data showing more than 74 percent of delegates at the convention were supporters of Frey.

Hofstede has been dogged by criticism while on the Council for being unresponsive to constituents and having high turnover in her office.

On the campaign trail, Frey repeatedly pledged to get back to people within 24 hours if elected. 

Frey said he'd like to see the ward's neighborhoods be more diverse with people of mixed income levels from a variety of backgrounds. He’s also advocating for a new school option to make downtown a more attractive place to live for families.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be built downtown, but it has to be an option for families living downtown,” he said.

He is a proponent of streetcars and high-density development corridors, and is considering authoring an ordinance that would encourage owners of the surface parking lots downtown to develop their plots. The new parking lot rules would offer incentives if parking lot owners choose to develop their land. If the owners chose not to develop, they would be required to upgrade landscaping and fence off their lots.

Frey, a Nicollet Island/East Bank Neighborhood resident, said he fell in love with Minneapolis when he was competing in the Twin Cities Marathon in 2006. He is a former nationally ranked professional distance runner and was a member of Team USA.

He has been very active in community causes since he moved to Minneapolis in 2009. He organized the Big Gay Race, which raised more than $250,000 to help defeat the marriage amendment. He helped people in North Minneapolis following the tornado and was involved in starting Isuroon, an empowerment group for Somali women.

The city honored him with the first Martin Luther King Jr. award for his social justice and civil rights work.

He had positioned himself as a young, new-wave DFLer versus two-term incumbent Hofstede’s well-recognized name. Her brother-in-law Al Hofstede served two non-consecutive terms as mayor of Minneapolis in the 1970s and her husband Tony is a popular business owner in Northeast.

“She had the governor and the former vice-president and former mayors stumping for her,” Frey said. 

Frey began building his grassroots organization during a month-long campaign in a 2011 special election for a state Senate seat representing eastern Minneapolis. He finished fifth out of six candidates in the DFL primary.

Frey met his campaign manager Jay Ludke, a former Republican turned Democrat, when they were campaigning against the marriage amendment last year. He teamed up with Margaret Zadra, Frey’s field organizer, to grow Frey’s organization. They started by recruiting delegates for the DFL caucus months before it was held in April.

 “It really helped that [Frey] developed such an extensive network of support so early,” Ludke said. “We knew if we won the caucus we’d have a good shot, so that was our focus early on.”

Zadra is a social worker with passion for social and environmental justice. She has a history of civil disobedience, including an instance in which she chained herself to a tree.

“In my 20s I was pretty radical, I was pretty far left of mainstream politics,” she said.

Ludke and Zadra embody the broad coalition Frey formed in the Third Ward. The ex-Republican staffer and ex-radical liberal aggressively recruited and trained delegates that traditionally don’t turn out to party caucuses.

“The number one thing that gets people involved in politics is face-to-face interaction, and we did that with reckless abandon,” Zadra said.



Third Ward Council Member-elect Jacob Frey will host a “town hall” style forum Monday, Nov. 18, 6:30–8 p.m., at the Mill City Museum to hear from residents and share his priorities for the new ward. The forum will be held in the museum’s ADM Conference Room on the sixth floor.


Newcomers to the City Council 

City Council Ward 3: Jacob Frey (defeated incumbent Diane Hofstede)

City Council Ward 5: Blong Yang (won seat vacated by Don Samuels who ran for mayor)

City Council Ward 6: Abdi Warsame (defeated incumbent Robert Lilligren)

City Council Ward 9: Alondra Cano (won seat vacated by Gary Schiff who ran for mayor, but dropped out of the race in the summer)

City Council Ward 10: Lisa Bender (defeated incumbent Meg Tuthill)

City Council Ward 12: Andrew Johnson (won seat vacated by retiring Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy)

City Council Ward 13: Linea Palmisano (won seated vacated by Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges)

Returning members 

City Council Ward 1: Kevin Reich

City Council Ward 2: Cam Gordon

City Council Ward 4: Barbara Johnson

City Council Ward 7: Lisa Goodman

City Council Ward 8: Elizabeth Glidden

City Council Ward 11: John Quincy