Tom Hoch kicked off his campaign for Minneapolis mayor at the State Theatre Tuesday. Photo by Eric Best

Tom Hoch kicked off his campaign for Minneapolis mayor at the State Theatre Tuesday. Photo by Eric Best

Tom Hoch joins mayor’s race

Updated: March 1, 2017 - 2:51 pm

The longtime downtown leader has become a political newcomer.

Speaking from a theater he helped to preserve, Tom Hoch, the former CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust, announced Tuesday his candidacy for mayor of Minneapolis.

Hoch officially kicked off his campaign at downtown’s State Theatre, speaking to a group of about 50 supporters in the lobby. The decision to run puts the longtime leader of downtown’s theaters and public art onto a completely different stage: his first-ever run for public office.

In his first campaign speech, Hoch questioned the city’s ability to compete nationwide in creating jobs, promoting creativity and fostering industries like food production, tech and health care, unlike cities like Denver, Austin or Indianapolis.

“Where is the ambition of the leaders of our city?” he said. “We don’t have the momentum that others have. We don’t have a plan of action.”

Hoch, 62, previously served as the founder of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, which owns and operates the State, Pantages and Orpheum theaters along Hennepin Avenue downtown. The Minneapolis native — a Washburn High School alumnus and a Lowry Hill neighborhood resident — stepped down in February amid rumors of mayoral ambitions. Hoch recently ended a term as chair of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and the Downtown Improvement District.

Both Hoch and husband Mark Addicks, a retired General Mills executive who hosted the campaign kickoff, have contributed to Ward 3 City Council campaign of Jacob Frey, who announced his own bid for mayor in January. On Jan. 23, the state’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board issued an advisory opinion that gave Frey the go ahead to spend funds donated to his City Council campaign committee on his run for mayor.

His speech included a quick jab at Frey because Hoch “gave for one purpose and now those funds are being used for something else,” he told The Journal.

Speaking of his competitors, Hoch said his decision to run isn’t simply one of political ambition.

“I don’t view the job of mayor as a stepping stone. I want to be your full-time, visual, engaged mayor leading from the front 24/7,” he said.

The campaign event drew supporters like John Sweeney, the proprietor of downtown’s Brave New Workshop; Gloria Freeman, owner of housing company Olu’s Home Inc. and a trust board member; and Cora McCorvey, the former executive director of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, where Hoch was employed as a deputy executive director in the early and mid 1990s.

Amol Dixit, the owner of Hot Indian Foods and a Minneapolis resident, said he supports Hoch because of his focus on creating a thriving Minneapolis.

“Tom clearly has a bias for listening and for incorporating diverse perspectives,” he said. “It has become so clear to me that what Tom has is a cohesive vision for the city. I believe Tom is the leader we need.”

Hoch previously worked as a schoolteacher, attorney and a projects manager with the City of Minneapolis. He previously served board chair of the Animal Humane Society for the past two years.

Other candidates in the 2017 mayoral contest include activist and attorney Nekima Levy-Pounds, a former Minneapolis NAACP president and University of St. Thomas professor; state Rep. Raymond Dehn, a DFLer whose district includes parts of North and downtown Minneapolis; and filmmaker Aswar Rahman. Mayor Betsy Hodges announced her re-election bid late last year.