Mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges turned up the heat in the mayor's race at a rally before supporters at 612 Brew in Northeast earlier today with some sharp criticism targeted toward Mark Andrew, her main rival.
"We are not one Minneapolis when the candidate for mayor with the biggest war chest and the most money from big donors tries to buy his way into the mayor's office," Hodges said at the brewery packed with supporters waving her campaign signs.
Andrew, a former Hennepin County commissioner, has a sizeable lead in fundraising among mayoral candidates with the election just five days away. He has more than $420,284 in campaign contributions and support from a political action committee that has raised another $136,500 on his behalf. Council Member Hodges has posted the second biggest fundraising totals in the mayor's race with $285,266 in donations and help from a PAC that has raised $38,600 to promote her mayoral bid.
Hodges didn't reference Andrew by name during her rally — a habit she's developed on the campaign trail. Once again, she criticized him for shifting his message depending on his audience. "We are not one Minneapolis when a candidate for mayor says one thing to one group and an oppositive thing to another, hoping that we won't notice the difference," she said.
She made the case that she has 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 remarks are also posted on her website.
Hodges also emphasized her vision for leading the way on tackling the city's racial disparities — a central platform of her campaign.
"Even hobbled by division, hobbled by the gaps in the haves and have nots, we have done great things in our city," she said. "But it is time to free ourselves from the fear that keeps us locked into patterns of inequality so that we can be the city of our greatest promise."
She also praised Mayor R.T. Rybak and lauded him for taking the job as head of Generation Next, an organization focused on eliminating the achievement gap in Twin Cities schools.
"He is the right leader at the right time to take on our toughest challenge," she said.
Marion Greene, Andrew's deputy campaign manager, criticized Hodges for accusing Andrew of trying to buy his way into the mayor's office, adding that Hodges' campaign has fallen short of fundraising goals and run a deficit for most of the campaign.
"Mark is proud of the support he has garnered in his appeal to Minneapolis voters," she said. "Mark’s campaign is built on collaboration, not isolation. He has the broadest and most diverse coalition — that’s why he’s the frontrunner in this campaign. Earning broad support is the sign of a leader who can move Minneapolis forward, and that is what she’s attacking here."
In other news on the campaign trail, Andrew's campaign team announced today that Speaker of the House Paul Thissen has endorsed Andrew for mayor.
In statement released this afternoon, Thissen said: "Tuesday’s decision is a crucial moment for Minneapolis. For me, this choice boils down to leadership, and I mean that in a very specific way based on my experience serving in public office. The kind of leader we need right now is not just a manager, but someone with a vision for the next leap forward for our city."
After Andrew's team announced Thissen's endorsement, Hodges' campaign sent out a statement from Duluth Mayor Don Ness endorsing the Council member for mayor.
Here's an excerpt: "After a decade of cuts to local government aid, Betsy helped lead the way to restore that funding. Her leadership not only helped Minneapolitans see a levy decrease this year, but cities all across the state have also benefited from this important investment in property tax relief. I would be thrilled to work with Mayor Hodges, I hope my friends in Minneapolis choose well."
The eight leading mayoral candidates meet for their final debate tomorrow at noon at Westminster Presbyterian Church at 12th & Nicollet Mall. MPR's Mike Mulcahy will moderate the debate.