A few days ago I wrote a note to each of several trusted fellow political activists asking them to provide me with a short list of which of the many candidates running for Mayor of Minneapolis they would feel comfortable with winning this important race. I did not ask for their number one choice, but rather, which of the candidates they would be reasonably comfortable with if they won. These fellow travelers in local politics were assured that I would include any and all names they gave me on the list, the list would be alphabetical and not ranked, there would be no indication as to who listed what candidate, and the names of the individuals I asked for this advice would be confidential. (I actually promised to destroy the replies.)
The reason I did this should be obvious to anyone following the Minneapolis Mayoral race. At present there are 35 candidates running for mayor. This includes a number of individuals who currently or have held public office in the area, or are otherwise politically involved, and are clearly serious candidates. It also includes a number of individuals whom it is hard to take seriously, such as the person who named himself after a well known movie pirate and one person running under the “Last Minneapolis Mayor” ticket. (I’m not sure if that candidate expect to be the last mayor of Minneapolis, or is making a statement that we’d like to keep the last mayor in office.) Many other candidates, perhaps most, are serious candidates (though often, it seems, with very narrow agendas). The problem is, there is no such thing as a serious candidate if the following two things are true: 1) There are dozens of candidates; and 2) a particular voter is not savvy to the local politics and is thus faced with a huge list of seemingly random names among which it is expected that the voter makes an informed choice.
One can get mad at individual voters for not paying enough attention to be able to vote responsibly in the election for their own mayor. But one can absolutely not expect a citizen to have a cue as to what to do when faced with this absurdly long list. Also given the large number of candidness and the fact that Minneapolis has a ranked-vote system, it is quite possible that a candidate with a funny name (such as the afore mentioned pirate) would be added as third choice by a lot of voters just for fun. And then get elected. Such a thing would not really be democracy in action. It would be something else.
I don’t vote in this election; I live in a different city. But I hold Minneapolis to be a “third home town” because my time spent living in that city is important to me. Also, Minneapolis is a big important city in my larger community. So that’s one reason I’m doing this. The other reason is that Julia just moved to the city and this is her first year ever being able to vote. That made me think of all the other first-time voters in the city, and the possible cynical (and very appropriately so) they may develop when approached with the problem of ranked voting (which is already a complication, though not much of one) and a multi-page ballot (I assume) because so many people simply signed up to be mayor.
The current situation with the Minneapolis mayor race is a joke. Minneapolis, however, is not a joke. It is a wonderful and important city. Clearly, the process has failed and needs to be revised.
My noting that the process has failed, by the way, is not a negative comment on the endorsement system itself. I do have some negative comments on that, but I am not dismayed that the DFL caucus system did not produce a candidate. That actually happens every time there is an open seat for Mayor, it seems. For what it is worth, I do have a few reform suggestions for the caucus. First, make the caucus about the caucus, not about the “very important business” of the party. A typical caucus involves hours of messing around with party business followed by the endorsement of a candidate, and if there is not enough time for that, or everyone is exhausted, that part is shortened. It should be the other way around. The caucus should involve ONLY the endorsement, and a separate meeting held later (or earlier) should address party business. Second, the mayor race appears to have no primary step. There should be one, perhaps. That might involve a third reform, that is, making the race partisan, which it currently is not. I have no useful opinion on whether or not that should be changed.
In any event, here is my list. This is, to reiterate, a list of candidates that people I trust, who are generally politically progressive Democrats, can live with. There is actually quite a bit of political diversity on this list. It happens to include the list I myself would have made.
A Short List of Candidates for Mayor of Minneapolis:
- Betsy Hodges
- Bob Fine
- Don Samuels
- Jackie Cherryholmes
- Jeffrey Wagner
- Mark Andrew