Electoral Committee Update on Minneapolis Campaigns

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With only a few weeks until November 2nd, the mailers have been flying fast, door knockers are everywhere, and with everything from public safety to rent control on the ballot, let’s take a brief look at the candidates and ballot questions Twin Cities DSA has endorsed. (All of them happen to be in Minneapolis this year, not by design, but because we only endorse those who ask for endorsement.) 

Before we dive in, however, I would be remiss as Electoral Committee co-chair if I didn’t start by asking readers to spend some time over the next few weeks supporting our efforts. We have canvasses and phonebanks planned through election day, all of which can be found posted at tcdsa.org/events. You do not have to be a Minneapolis voter to take part. 

Mayor – TCDSA Endorsement: Sheila Nezhad

Easy place to start, head of the city, and after the last two years, looking back on the response to both the pandemic as well as the murder of George Floyd, it’s safe to say voters aren’t very happy with Jacob Frey. Luckily, he is not the only option. Nowhere close, as this is definitely the most contentious of all the races. We could spend time talking about some of the more eye-catching names, from Bob “Again” Carney Jr, to Kevin “No Body” Ward, or Nate “Honey Badger” Atkins. But I said I would keep this brief. Going by fundraising, four candidates stand out, having raised over $100,000. Endorsement-wise we see three who have attracted a significant amount of organizations or elected officials. The race is by no means a sure thing, particularly taking seriously the Jacob Frey’s cash on hand and endorsements from state Democratic officials. With that said, Sheila Nezhad’s campaign has maintained a strong focus on campaigning throughout, allowing them to receive 53% of the final round vote at the DFL caucus. With the campaign saying they are door knocking five days a week in the last month to the election, she has sought to bring voters her vision for what Minneapolis could be, where we are all safe, where all people can walk down the street without fear, everyone has their basic needs met, and every person has someone to call when they need help. It’s a straightforward hope, and Sheila Nezhad has both the policy and the activist background to fight for it.

Ward 2 City Council – TCDSA Endorsement: Robin Wonsley Worlobah

Ward 2 provides its own unique dynamics. In addition to Robin, the race includes Green Party member Cam Gordon (incumbent) seeking re-election, two DFL candidates, neither of which received the endorsement at the ward caucus, and, supposedly, a republican named Guy Gaskin.  Having raised the second highest amount with the most cash on hand and having received endorsements running the gambit from progressive to socialist, Robin is well positioned in her challenge to Cam. And she needs to be, because just last month, loss of access to the canvassing tool VAN threatened to devastate the campaign (see the article “Cut off! Canvassing as an Independent” for more background). A grassroots campaign is especially reliant on its ground game to connect with voters and build awareness of what their doing. Thankfully, months of voter contact were completed before access was taken away, and with their fundraising goal met to obtain new database access, the campaign is poised to maintain a strong push through the election, as they look to heal and build as Minneapolis’ first black democratic socialist City Council member.

Ward 9 City Council – TCDSA Endorsement: Jason Chavez

Ward 9, outside of the mayor’s race, has the most candidates registered for a single-seat race, with no incumbent. To look at the details of the candidates though, you see instantly not to take it at face value. Looking at fundraising, you find only two current candidates, Jason Chavez and Mickey Moore, have raised more than $10,000 dollars. You also find that much of the money raised by Moore is actually a loan… from Moore. The picture crystallizes further as you look at endorsements. Chavez, having received the DFL endorsement with 69% of the vote, promotes 18 other organizational endorsements on their website, including TCDSA. Of the candidates, only two others, Moore and Al Flowers Jr., have received organizational endorsements, with Moore receiving the Legal Marijuana Now party endorsement. Far from the potential of a crowded race for an open seat, Jason Chavez is now and has been a strong candidate, a proud southsider who seems poised to take his fight for his community to City Hall.

Ward 10 City Council – TCDSA Endorsement: Aisha Chughtai

Of all our city council races, Ward 10 provides the most candidates who can make a certain claim to being in the race to succeed Lisa Bender, whether it is through fundraising, with five candidates having raised over $20,000, or through endorsements, with three of those candidates having multiple endorsements by either organizations or elected officials. With $101,214 raised, 15 organizational endorsements and the endorsements of both the outgoing Councilmember Bender and Representative Ilhan Omar, Aisha is in a strong position. A race with funding is a race that continues though, and this is one race where there is cause for introspection, because while Bernie Sanders carried the ward in 2020 with 54% of the primary vote, Omar lost with 46% of the vote to Antone Melton-Meaux. As this is not the place for a long rehash of the 2020 primary, I can thankfully leave off with a prediction that while the race will not be settled until election day, her campaign seems to show no signs of slowing down, with a strong showing at their fall canvass kickoff as they build connections between neighbors and ask them to send her to city hall to fight for them.

Ballot Question Two: Department of Public Safety – TCDSA Endorsement: Vote YES

Perhaps the most contentious topic of all this election cycle is the question of what to do with the police department. You will forgive a small gripe from this writer as, for multiple days in a row, All of Mpls literature was distributed in my building, and posted by management for a short period. It is misleading, and it is everywhere. It makes one stop and reflect about the change that is being fought over. Yes4Minneapolis has campaigned on removing a minimum staffing requirement (pretty unusual for a city charter) and incorporating a comprehensive public health approach to safety into a new department. The police will not be “abolished,” and contrary to some of the fearmongering, not much is likely to change overnight. It does, however, enable the ability to make the change we need, the change that even All of Mpls must pay lip service to in its literature. True change though, a change that doesn’t render all this effort just a branding change, requires the victory of progressive and socialist campaigns throughout the city who are determined to pass the meaningful ordinances which will be essential to the restructuring of safety in this city.

Ballot Question Three: Authorizing City Council to Enact Rent Control Ordinance – TCDSA Endorsement: Vote YES

Comparatively speaking to the Department of Public Safety amendment, until recently the rent control amendment seemed to be facing minimal opposition. It is supported by Minneapolis United for Rent Control as well as Home to Stay, a coalition of many  organizations, faith groups, and unions such as Yes 4 Minneapolis, Take Action, ISAIAH, Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia, and SEIU 26, to name a few. But an opponent has now emerged, the effort led by a coalition including the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, the same organization behind efforts to oppose certain tenant protections in Minneapolis in late summer of 2019. These efforts include Think Twice About Rent Control Minneapolis. There is another effort, creatively named Think Twice About Rent Control St. Paul, to oppose the measure before St. Paul residents this year. The rent, as has been said, is too damn high, the election is right around the corner, and it would seem the fight over question three is officially here.

by Tim H., co-chair of Electoral Committee and Treasurer of TCDSA