Rybak prepares to pass the torch to Hodges

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November 6, 2013 // UPDATED 9:25 pm - November 14, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges and Mayor R.T. Rybak met Tuesday to go over the transition process.
Photo by Dylan Thomas
Sarah McKenzie
Mayor R.T. Rybak and Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges met Tuesday to discuss the transition process

When Betsy Hodges officially becomes mayor Jan. 2, she will take the reins of City Hall along with a City Council featuring a majority of new members.

Coalition building will be a priority as she works to advance the agenda she promoted on the campaign trail, which includes tackling the city’s racial disparities, improving educational outcomes for the city’s youth and advancing the streetcar plan, among other things.

Given the city’s weak-mayor system, Hodges will have to form alliances on the 13-member City Council to follow through on those campaign promises. The Council that will take over in January will be more diverse and younger than the current body in control.

For the first time in city history, the Council will feature three immigrant members — Blong Yang (5th Ward), a Hmong-American; Abdi Warsame (6th Ward), a Somali-American; and Alondra Cano (9th Ward), a Mexican-American.

Other newcomers include Jacob Frey (3rd Ward), Lisa Bender (10th Ward), Andrew Johnson (12th Ward) and Linea Palmisano (13th Ward). Returning Council members include Council President Barb Johnson (4th Ward), Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward) and John Quincy (11th Ward).

It’s the most turnover the Council has seen since 2001 and the newcomers could get leadership posts that typically go to members with more experience. The new Council members have already been getting to know one another. They met at Frey’s condo on East Hennepin on Nov. 10 to discuss priorities and share thoughts on the Council’s leadership structure when their terms begin.

Bender noted that many of the new members were elected by large margins and expectations will be high to deliver on the promises they made to constituents on the campaign trail.

She said Mayor-elect Hodges ran on a platform of making city government more inclusive for all residents — a theme that works well with the more diverse makeup of the Council  

City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward) said the new crew headed to the Council ran aggressive and competitive campaigns, which shows they have the work ethic needed for the job.

She said she wants to make sure they get good training so they can be set up for success, and wants to see the new members form good working relationships with returning members so a positive and respectful tone is established.

When they take office in January some of the issues that will command their attention include the latest plan for Southwest Light Rail Transit, the Orchestra Hall dispute, redevelopment plans for Downtown East near the Vikings stadium, new initiatives to make the police department more accountable, the proposed Nicollet streetcar line and contract negotiations with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy. 

Glidden said there will also be a special focus on the city’s efforts to improve racial equity. The city has a new Racial Equity Assessment Toolkit, which guides decision making so all city policies and practices can promote racial equity. The toolkit is based on a similar program in Seattle. 

The long wait

After two full days of vote counting at City Hall, Hodges was finally declared the winner in the mayor’s race shortly after 10 p.m. Nov. 7 after 33 rounds of counting.

In the final round of tabulation, she had 48.95 percent of the votes and Mark Andrew had 31.44 percent. Nearly 20 percent of the ballots were exhausted, which means all of the ranked candidates on those ballots had been eliminated.

Hodges’ victory had taken on an air of inevitability early in the counting process when she was far ahead in first place votes among the field of 35 candidates.

After the counting process ended, she issued a statement: “I want to thank my opponents, many of whom I have spoken with over the past few days. They all waged fine campaigns and it is an honor to have been in the field with them. And thank you so much to the people of Minneapolis for the faith you have placed in me to be your next Mayor,” she said. “R.T. Rybak is the Mayor until Jan. 2 — and you can tell because he has a big agenda he is working on until the end, and I will support him in that work the best I can.” 

The Nov. 5 election was the first in 20 years without an incumbent running for mayor in Minneapolis.

Hodges of Linden Hills has represented the 13th Ward on the City Council for two terms. The ward includes some of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods around Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun.

Hodges has served as the chair of the Ways & Means Budget Committee and often points to her work on pension reform as her most notable achievement as a Council member. Before the city’s police and fire pension funds were merged into a state plan they were putting an enormous pressure on the city’s budget.

Rybak will be working with Hodges to get the ball rolling on the transition process. Rybak’s last full day will be Jan. 1. Hodges will be sworn in Jan. 2 with a full inauguration with Council Members planned for Jan. 6 in the City Hall Rotunda.

“Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges has been a strong partner over these years in City Hall. I’ve seen first-hand that she is an effective advocate both for the needs of the city, and in moving the levers of government at all levels to improve people’s lives,” Rybak said. “The Mayor-elect’s commitment to closing gaps in our city is rock-solid, and I particularly look forward to working with her on ending the achievement gap and making sure that all our children and our entire region succeed in the 21st century.”

Hodges had lunch with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman Nov. 8 at Mission in the IDS. He offered her advice on her new role and gave her a framed graphic featuring the cities’ two area codes. 

At a press conference after their lunch, Coleman joked that he urged her not take any cues from the mayor of Toronto and told her she had to get snow plowing right.

Hodges and Coleman also talked about their shared commitment to working on tackling the region’s achievement gap, which will be a special focus for Rybak when he leaves office in early January and becomes executive director of Generation Next. 

Savoring victory 

Hodges celebrated her victory Nov. 6 at 612 Brew in Northeast.

With Rybak, campaign staff, new City Council members, friends and family standing behind her, she credited her strong grassroots campaign with helping her rise above the crowded field of 35 candidates.

She also thanked the other candidates in the race. One of them, Cam Winton, was in attendance. 

“I want to say thank you so much to the people of Minneapolis for the faith and trust you have placed in me to lead this city into the future,” she said. “I know that faith and trust is about a bigger vision that we all share — that we have been talking about for months together. And that’s a city that is built by everybody, for everybody and with everybody. When we do that we become a city that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Andrew, a former Hennepin County commissioner, conceded the race on his Facebook page shortly before Hodges addressed supporters at her party.

In the post, he wrote: “I spoke with Mayor-elect Hodges on the phone and congratulated her on her well-earned victory in yesterday’s election. We ran an incredible campaign but in the end, we just couldn’t shake her. Betsy was tenacious, determined and she peaked at the right time. These assets will serve her well as she transitions into her new role as leader of our City. I have offered my friendship and support in pursuit of elevating Minneapolis to its next level of greatness.”

A total of 79,415 ballots were cast, according to elections officials — a turnout of about 30 percent of registered voters.

Turnout was much higher than the 2009 municipal election, which had 45,968 ballots cast. Mayor R.T. Rybak did not face a serious challenger in that election.

The Nov. 5 election was the second time the city has used the ranked-choice voting method, which allowed voters to rank up to three candidates for offices on the ballot.

FairVote Minnesota Executive Director Jeanne Massey said Hodges prevailed by building a broad coalition of support.

“Ranked Choice Voting is the simplest, fairest way to ensure that every voter has his or her voice heard in our elections,” she said. “[Nov. 5] was one of Ranked Choice Voting’s biggest tests yet, and it passed with flying colors.”

After Hodges and Andrew, City Council Member Don Samuels (5th Ward), Winton and former City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes had the most votes.

Hodges had a commanding lead in neighborhoods throughout the city with the exception of Ward 6 where Andrew led in votes among members of the Somali community. Samuels had strong numbers in Ward 5 and Cherryhomes in a couple of neighborhoods in North Minneapolis on the city’s border with Golden Valley.

Cherryhomes congratulated Hodges on her victory before it became official.

 “Over the course of the campaign, we found common ground on the need to address the inequalities in our city, and I am looking forward to working with her to address disparities in income, education and opportunity. All of the candidates in the race for mayor should be commended. Ranked Choice Voting allowed us to run campaigns for Minneapolis, not against each other,” she said. 

Winton also released a statement with kind words for Hodges and gratitude for his supporters, friends and family.

“Congratulations to Betsy Hodges on what appears to be her victory in the election. We don’t agree on everything, but she’s a hard-working person of integrity and I wish her well as mayor,” he said. “More than anything, I’m grateful to Emily for her steadfast support and patience. As for me, my daughter turns 3 today and I’ll start back at work on Monday, so life is good. My commitment to our principles and to doing my part to further them is unshakable, and as I said last night, these fresh eyes will see you again before too long. In the meantime, I offer my sincere thanks for your support.” 

Hodges’ sizeable lead in first place votes was surprising to many observers of the mayor’s race since Andrew had a big lead in fundraising and scores of endorsements.

He had more than $420,284 in campaign contributions and support from a political action committee that has raised another $136,500 on his behalf. The major donors to the PAC were the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, Minneapolis publisher Vance Opperman and the Fire Fighters Association of Minneapolis.

Andrew, a resident of Lynnhurst, served on the Hennepin County Board for 16 years — from 1982–1999 — and was elected chair of the board four times. After he left the county board, he worked for Tunheim Partners and then launched his own green marketing business GreenMark.

His campaign attracted support from some of the DFL’s key power players, including influential fundraisers Sam and Sylvia Kaplan, Gov. Mark Dayton’s chief of staff Tina Smith, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin and Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen

Hodges posted the second biggest fundraising totals in the mayor’s race with $285,266 in donations and help from a PAC that raised $38,600 to promote her mayoral bid.

Hodges’ role as the political underdog compared to Andrew worked to her advantage in the final weeks before the election. At a rally five days before the election, she made the case that she had the strongest grassroots support in the city and linked Andrew to an era ruled by an “old boys network” during her speech billed as her “closing argument” for her campaign.

Her campaign was also bolstered by the endorsement of the Star Tribune’s editorial board. She earned praise for taking on “special interests on behalf of taxpayers." Meanwhile, the newspaper’s editorial board questioned Andrew’s ties to unions and whether he’d be able to push for reform in education and public safety. They also criticized him for shifting his message depending on his audience. 

Park Board attorney and lobbyist Brian Rice, one of Andrew’s key supporters, said the Star Tribune endorsement had a big impact on the race.

He said Andrew’s campaign team had polling data showing him with a 10 point lead over Hodges up until the announcement of the Star Tribune’s endorsement Oct. 27.

Many voters were undecided and the newspaper’s endorsement gave Hodges the edge she needed on Election Day, he said.

At her victory party, Hodges also credited her success in the race to her strong campaign team and network of volunteers that reached out face-to-face to voters all over the city. She also singled out some of the organizations that have been big supporters, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), TakeAction Minnesota, the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action, among many others.

“As a team we have made a bigger and better movement together, and I’m so proud of that,” she said.

**

Round 33: Final tabulation in mayor’s race

(For more details, go to www.vote.minneapolis.gov)

Total votes cast for office: 79,415; threshold needed to win: 39,708

Betsy Hodges: 38,870 (48.95 percent)

Mark Andrew: 24,972 (31.44 percent)

Exhausted ballots (meaning all of the voter's choices had been eliminated): 15,573 (19.61 percent)

**

(Winners in Tuesday's election)

Mayor: Betsy Hodges

City Council Ward 1: Kevin Reich

City Council Ward 2: Cam Gordon

City Council Ward 3: Jacob Frey

City Council Ward 4: Barbara Johnson

City Council Ward 5: Blong Yang

City Council Ward 6: Abdi Warsame

City Council Ward 7: Lisa Goodman

City Council Ward 8: Elizabeth Glidden

City Council Ward 9: Alondra Cano

City Council Ward 10: Lisa Bender

City Council Ward 11: John Quincy

City Council Ward 12: Andrew Johnson

City Council Ward 13: Linea Palmisano

Board of Estimate and Taxation: Carol Becker and David Wheeler

Park and Recreation Board at-large: John Erwin, Annie Young, and Meg Forney

Park and Recreation Board District 1: Liz Wielinski

Park and Recreation Board District 2: Jon Olson

Park and Recreation Board District 3: Scott Vreeland

Park and Recreation Board District 4: Anita Tabb

Park and Recreation Board District 5: Steffanie Musich

Park and Recreation Board District 6: Brad Bourn

City question 1: Yes

City question 2: Yes