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A Short List of Candidates for Mayor of Minneapolis

by gregladen on October 2, 2013 · 8 comments

votemgnA 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


MplsDave October 2, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Some confusion resulting from your post:

1) The caucuses were in April when delegates were selected, the convention was in June when the endorsement was considered and Hodges and Andrew deadlocked. When you say caucus are you meaning the convention?

2) Minneapolis had a primary until 2005. Then IRV was passed, one of the selling points is that the city would save money from NOT having a primary.

3) Candidates for mayor in November are listed on the ballot with their parties so what do you mean by making the race partisan?

4) Jeffrey Wagner. Jeffrey Wagner? The swearing, emerging from the lake in his underwear guy from the you tube viral video, you’d be comfortable with him as mayor? You say “Minneapolis, however, is not a joke.” but Wagner would certainly make us one if by some miracle he was elected.

gregladen October 3, 2013 at 8:06 am

MplsDave: Thanks for the correction on the caucuses. Certainly, I meant the convention. I tend to think of the whole process as the “Caucusing Process” but that’s probably wrong.

The mayoral race is officially non-partisan. Candidates can list a party with their name but this does not imply endorsement, and they can be on the ballot without that term. This is true in Minnesota with municipal elections generally.

Regarding point 4, I did not say that I was comfortable with any of these candidates. This list is the sum of a set of lists given to me by numerous individuals who said THEY would be comfortable.

The point of this list is not to endorse anyone. This is the list that I would use if I was voting in Minneapolis as a starting point to research whom I would vote for. I would have no intention of researching over 30 people. So, by asking several people who are more in the know than I am what their short list would be, I feel comfortable having a short list that would be my starting point.

I appreciate your comments about Wagner … comments about any of these candidates would be helpful for anyone looking at this list. However, it would also be nice to include a link to the evidence you are adducing for Wagner’s aquatic habits, etc. Also, why is emerging from a lake inherently a bad thing? I would think going the other way, sinking into the lake, would be inherently bad! Also, depends on the underwear.

Also, proposed additions to the list would b helpful as well.

The Big E October 3, 2013 at 8:07 am

I am shocked, I tell you shocked, that Neal Baxter isn’t included in this list. And what happened to Captain Jack Sparrow!?!

I demand a recount!

Dan Burns October 3, 2013 at 8:37 am

Three of the names on this list have a realistic chance of winning, based on polling and campaign resources. (I’m not suggesting that a surprise is impossible.) They are Hodges, Samuels, and Andrew. The other is Dan Cohen. Progressives arguably have plenty of reasons to be disdainful of all four. I suspect that most Minneapolis progressives will rank their votes on the basis of who is least objectionable to them. I don’t see the progressive vote coalescing behind any one candidate.

Eric Ferguson October 3, 2013 at 11:09 am

Whoever suggested Wagner must have been joking, because he got in the news one day with that dumb video.

I’m thinking it’s a two person race between Hodges and Andrew, and maybe Samuels. To hazard a prediction, my best guess is Hodges and Andrew will be one and two without a guess as to order, then there’s a gap to the second tier of candidates who might be regarded as serious, which is where I put Samuels, Winton, Cherryholmes, and maybe Dan Cohen. After that, no one gets out of the low single digits, and most won’t break 1%.

Yes, 35 candidates is a joke. It’s not RCV, because we would have had that same mess going into a primary. The problem is the filing fee of $25. That’s all it takes to claim to be a candidate equal to people who had been going hard at it for months, making loads of appearances, recruiting volunteers, etc. I’m rather amused at these people whose campaign consists of the form they filed, and they expect equal treatment at forums. I think St. Paul’s fee is $500, and that sounds like something Minneapolis should copy.

Josh October 3, 2013 at 1:34 pm

@Dan Burns: Progressives ALWAYS find reasons to be disdainful of candidates. I suspect in today’s environment the late Paul Wellstone would be getting crushed for his DOMA vote and you’d hear a legion of progressives threatening to stay home rather than vote for someone who didn’t meet their progressive standards, even if the other candidate was John Kline/Rod Grams/Kurt Zellers-style conservative who’d destroy everything progressive care about if they had the chance.

I’m bored with the concept of “voting for the least objectionable”. It’s the self-righteous way of voting to make yourself feel better. If you’re voting for a candidate that you agree with a majority of the time on the issues you care about the most, you’re not “voting for the least objectionable”, you’re voting for the candidate you prefer the most. This concept of negative assessment voting is helping run down our political discourse and promotes the concept that politicians are all worthy of scorn and disdain and they should thank their lucky stars we deign to gift them with our vote.


Dan Burns October 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Good rant. My phrasing should have been less negative.

Josh October 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Ha, thanks! I want Progressive goals to be enacted. I want progressives to be a stronger voice. I think Mpls will end up with a progressive mayor. I just wish more people in the progressive movement would be willing to tilt back the ratio of positive cheerleading instead of so much focus on criticizing. Too often we focus on where we’ve come up short instead of trumpeting our successes as things to build on and you comment got caught in my crossfire…

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