Rybak, incumbents win big

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October 26, 2009 // UPDATED 7:33 am - November 4, 2009
By: Cristof Traudes
Cristof Traudes

A referendum to replace the membership of the Board of Estimate and Taxation with the City Council was defeated by a large margin.

Mayor R.T. Rybak appears poised for a third term in office, as first-round, unofficial election results from Tuesday night show him receiving close to 74 percent of first-choice votes. That’s far beyond the 50 percent plus one threshold he needed to win his seat and about 63 percent more than his closest competition.

He didn't seem to have been hurt much by a 10-opponent opposition, who in recent weeks panned Rybak for participating in just one short debate — a 30-minute radio event that didn’t take place until the day before the election. His opponents also criticized him for already seemingly running for governor, a campaign he’s widely expected to kick off anytime.

But Rybak has said that if he runs for governor, he would still be able to successfully focus on the city. Minneapolis didn't suffer, he has said, when he spent many hours campaigning for now-President Barack Obama throughout Minnesota.

Rybak's closest competitor ended up being Papa John Kolstad, the musician and small-business owner. Kolstad wanted an increased focus on small businesses and less property taxes, and he was Republican and Independence parties-endorsed. He received about 11 percent of first-round votes.

Strongly vocal opponent Al Flowers, who accused Rybak of running the city like a dictator, received a little under 4 percent of first-round votes.

While the arrival of ranked-choice voting meant it was harder to call some races on election night — in particular, the multi-seat contests — all of Downtown's City Council and single-seat Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board contests were won by strong majorities.

For the 7th Ward council seat, incumbent Lisa Goodman again dominated the field. Despite recent legal troubles that her opponents used against her during a candidate forum, Goodman received more than 68 percent of first-round votes. Michael Katch, a futures trader and columnist, received about 24 percent. Candidate Jeff Wagner, who said on the campaign trail that he would probably vote for Katch, received about 7 percent of first-round votes.

For Park Board District 3, incumbent Commissioner Scott Vreeland blew out newcomer Mike Wendorf, with more than 72 percent of first-round votes.

Park Board District 4, which was the only city race with just one candidate, will be represented by Anita Tabb. She received more than 97 percent of first-round votes and will replace outgoing Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom.

The Park Board at-large race, meanwhile, appears completely up in the air as first-round votes show a very tight contest. The threshold to win was 25 percent plus one, but the top votes-getter, Bob Fine, received 22 percent. From there, the race stayed close, with Annie Young getting 18 percent, John Erwin 17 percent, Mary Merrill Anderson 15 percent and Tom Nordyke 10 percent. Because there's no way to know which second and third choices will be counted, there's no way to know until hand counting is completed who the winners are.

What is known: the Board of Estimate and Taxation will remain as is. The board, which sets the city's and Park Board’s annual maximum property tax levies and has oversight of internal audits, had been targeted by a referendum to be replaced by the City Council. Referendum supporters including Rybak and many incumbent council members had argued the board’s obscurity made it hard for citizens to hold accountable, but the referendum received just 35 percent "yes" votes.

The ballot question's failure means the city's other at-large race, for the two separately elected seats on the Board of Estimate and Taxation, has meaning. The definite winner for one of those seats: incumbent Carol Becker, who received more than 52 percent of first-round votes. The threshold to win was 33.3 percent plus one. Who will fill the other seat remains a question mark, as the second most votes-getter, David Wheeler, got 19 percent.

All of these results, save for the referendum, will remain unofficial until hand-counting is completed. That process begins at 11 a.m. today and could last through mid-December. Precinct results will be counted by ward in this random order: 13th, 12th, 2nd, 11th, 6th, 7th, 5th, 10th, 4th, 3rd, 1st, 8th and 9th.