Third Ward candidate profile: Jacob Frey

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March 18, 2013 // UPDATED 10:54 am - March 27, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Jacob Frey at a recent campaign meet and greet.
Kristin Lebben
Sarah McKenzie
Former professional runner challenging two-term incumbent for City Council seat

Editor's Note: The Third Ward City Council race is shaping up to be one of the most competitive council races for the 2013 Minneapolis election.

Incumbent City Council Member Diane Hofstede is facing competition from Jacob Frey, a civil rights attorney and community organizer. 

The new Third Ward — post-redistricting — includes neighborhoods downtown and east of the river, including Bottineau, Sheridan, St. Anthony West, St. Anthony East, Beltrami, Nicollet Island/East Bank, Marcy Holmes, Downtown East, Downtown West and the North Loop.

The Journal is sponsoring a Third Ward candidate forum on Thursday, March 21, 6:30-7:30 p.m., at DeLaSalle High School with the League of Women Voters of Minneapolis. 

The new City Council ward boundaries go into effect for the November election. Before the redistricting process, the Third Ward included neighborhoods on the east side and in North Minneapolis. It did not stretch into the downtown area.

Races for city offices are nonpartisan, but the DFL Party has long dominated Minneapolis politics. Hofstede and Frey are seeking the DFL endorsement, and have been actively recruiting delegates for the Third Ward DFL Convention on May 4 at Nicollet Island. To secure the DFL endorsement, a candidate needs 60 percent of the delegate votes.

The endorsing process gets underway at the DFL precinct caucuses on April 16. 

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Jacob Frey fell in love with Minneapolis while running the Twin Cities Marathon in 2006.

He ran the race in two hours and 20 minutes — four minutes shy of his personal best for the marathon. Frey used to be a nationally ranked professional distance runner and was a member of Team USA.

Now he’s running an aggressive campaign for the Third Ward City Council seat in a race against incumbent City Council Member Diane Hofstede.

Frey, a civil rights attorney with Halunen & Associates, has been active in many community causes since he moved to Minneapolis in 2009.

He organized the Big Gay Race, raising 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 said his motivation to run for the City Council comes from a passion for public service.

“From the bottom of my heart, I really want to have the ability to make a difference in people’s lives on a very grassroots level and there’s no position I can think of that is touching people more directly than City Council,” he said. “They have the ability to be in constant contact with constituents and the ability to affect people’s lives in a very tangible way. City Council has the ability to organize, which is what I really pride myself on, on issues that aren’t even related in some cases to City Hall.”

If elected Frey said he would focus on being responsive to the needs of his constituents and advocate to make the ward more family friendly, too, supporting efforts to secure a new downtown school.  

“Ninety percent of the issues that touch your day-to-day life are City Council issues — and you need someone effective in that position to make sure everything is going in the right direction,” he said. “If somebody calls up with an issue, I think it’s important that a city council member gets back to them in a timely basis — within 24 hours. That’s something I pledge to do.”

Frey said he’s a supporter of development and density, but as a council member, he would push for green amenities.

He also promises to be a champion of diversity. “You need someone who is willing to advocate for the values of diversity — not just diversity in terms of skin color and ethnicity, but diversity in terms of transportation options, employment options, entertainment, theatrical options and cuisine,” he said. “A diverse ward in all senses of the word makes it a stronger and better place to live.”

As for the new Vikings stadium, Frey said he would work to make sure it has a positive impact on the neighborhood.

“I think that the only way that the neighborhood will succeed with that development is if there is a substantial amount of both residential and mixed use surrounding the Vikings stadium,” he said. “You need a council member who is willing to be an advocate for the neighborhood to make sure that a beautiful building goes up, but also to make sure that the Vikings are contributing the public amenities they promised to the community.”

As part of his campaign, Frey’s team has created a couple of fun YouTube videos, including one showing him running around to various landmarks in the ward and another with prominent community leaders explaining why “Frey’s my Guy.”

Michael Rainville, a longtime Northeast resident and Meet Minneapolis manager, is featured on the video. He’s endorsing Frey after supporting Hofstede’s previous runs for the Council.

“[Jacob] has managerial skills. He can run an office,” he said. “He’s a good listener. He’s the future of our ward.”

Frey also has the support of four City Council members — Lisa Goodman, Elizabeth Glidden, Gary Schiff and Robert Lilligren.

Lilligren, vice president of the Council, said he’s been impressed by Frey’s work ethic and organizing abilities.

“There’s just something about that ability to have a vision and see it through that’s really needed in that ward office,” he said. “He’s connecting with people one on one — both the people that are traditionally engaged with the city, but also the student community and immigrant communities. I just think he has what it takes to be a good council member.” 

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Jacob Frey

Neighborhood: Nicollet Island/East Bank

Occupation: attorney with Minneapolis law firm Halunen & Associates

Education: B.A. from the College of William and Mary, 2003; J.D. from Villanova University School of Law, 2009

Campaign website: jacobfreyforourcity.com

Twitter: @Jacob_Frey

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