This may be the most difficult election for which I create one of these sample ballots. Minneapolis has moved to ranked-choice voting, in which we can vote for up to three candidates and order them by our preference. That’s a different kind of decision-making than picking one person out of a field. It’s more decision-making than in a regular election and more weighing of non-ideal choices. I’ve ranked everyone I consider to be a serious candidate below, even where we can’t vote for that many candidates.
On top of that, this year, our popular, charismatic, and effective mayor, R. T. Rybak, has declined to run again. Into that gap rushed an enormous number of candidates. A caucus earlier this year did not result in an endorsement, so we have 10 Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidates. And 25 other candidates. I think. I lost count.
So this has required some serious work just to narrow the field to serious candidates, by which I mean candidates who have the bare minimum indication that their campaign extended beyond paying the filing fee and who have some elected experience. Luckily for me, my friend Naomi Kritzer did most of that work. I got to limit my attention to people who stood some chance of governing if they were elected.
To find out where you vote and what will be on your ballot, go to the Secretary of State’s elections website. Give them your address, and they’ll show you a sample ballot. The ballots look a lot longer this year because first, second, and third choices are all listed separately for the same race. At the bottom of the ballot will be a link for your polling place.
As always, I put my reasoning for my votes online for people who don’t have the resources or time to do their own. If my reasoning doesn’t match yours, at least you have some background. If you want to provide additional background in the comments, feel free.
Mayor (vote for three)
Minneapolis’s mayor is a relatively weak mayor, though Rybak managed to use the authority he did have to prioritize spending in a number of ways that I think made the city stronger, even in difficult economic times. So we’re looking for a mayor who, ideally, has some combination of vision we support and demonstrated ability to use limited resources wisely. They also need to function as the face of the city under various circumstances, but that’s not as high on my priority list as on some people’s.
- Betsy Hodges–Betsy is a pragmatic progressive with city council experience and the endorsement of Gary Schiff, another progressive pragmatist. There is a lot to like about her, and very little to dislike. I have some reservations about how tied into the political machinery she is, but those can definitely be a positive for a mayor as well.
- Don Samuels–Samuels is well-liked and well-respected, supported by many in preliminary polling. I’ve generally heard good things about him during his time on the council. That made me very disappointed to check out his website and find a narrow platform. I’m also wary of a law-and-order candidate, even one with black constituent support and a evidence-based approach, who doesn’t at least directly mention the problems with racism in our police department. Like Naomi, I’m not altogether satisfied with his answer to her question about the topic.
- Bob Fine–Fine has a great deal of experience throughout city government, and he has perhaps the most detailed policy proposals I’ve seen on a mayoral website. He is also a pro-business candidate whose focus is on new small businesses operating outside of downtown. He’s a wonk. I like wonks. If he were more progressive, he might have become my top choice. Know, however, that if the ranked-choice voting boots either Hodges or Samuels, Fine is likely to already have been eliminated.
- Mark Andrew–To declare my biases up front, Andrew annoyed the hell out of me with his aggressive campaigning before the caucus. He’s also changed positions during the campaign, and despite campaigning as an environmentalist candidate, he lacks environmentalist endorsements. And so, while there are a lot of things right about Andrew, from positions to endorsements, I find myself just not sure that this is someone I want to have as my mayor. He seems more interested in having the job than doing it.
- Cam Winton–Winton is basically an Arne Carlson Republican, though he’s not running as a Republican. Socially liberal enough, he just wants to cut down the cost of government. He has some good ideas for that (shared with other candidates) and some bad ideas. I just don’t think he’s what Minneapolis needs. I say this having voted for Carlson the first time he was elected governor and counting him among the very few Republicans for whom I still have some respect now.
- Dan Cohen–Cohen is an odd candidate. He has a large amount of governmental experience and priorities I generally, but not always, agree with. Yet he seems oddly uneducated about some of the positions he holds. For example, he wants to make getting rid of racist cops a priority, but he also cites Charles Murray to suggest that educational attainment has no connection to race. Then there’s his idea of a downtown casino, when casinos have been doing poorly for the last several years. He also lists broad goals with no plan to reach them.
- Jackie Cherryhomes–I used to have a corrupt representative on the city council. He was arrested after an FBI sting. He was also terribly unresponsive to constituents, as we discovered first-hand. Cherryhomes never did anything that got her arrested, but she was still not great with conflicts of interest or constituents. And she made terrible decisions, particularly about supporting large corporations and about downtown development. Frankly, I’d rather have my old council rep as mayor than her.
- Stephanie Woodruff–This is her first time running for political office, and she’d like you to vote for her to run the largest city in Minnesota. She has at least served on the city’s audit committee, which appears to be nearly three years old. She does at least have the best website of any person I’ve seen ask voters to take that kind of gamble, even if it doesn’t get much into specifics. But that’s about it.
Everybody else: Minneapolis could give Great Britain or San Francisco a run for their money on eccentrics, though we wouldn’t win simply because several frigid months each year cramps our styles. Still, if you want to read about an entertaining group of implausible candidates, you could do worse than to peruse Naomi’s coverage.
Council Member, Ward Six (vote for three)
The sixth ward is an odd part of Minneapolis. It contains a very large percentage of the city’s social services organizations and a very large percentage of the city’s immigrant population. It also houses the city’s indigenous development. Where I live, I have a mariachi accordion player living behind me, an Ecuadoran family (I think) living across the street that throws a few fiestas a year in their backyard, new hippies to my left, and a native American art gallery and Colombian restaurant in the building to my right. Most of the people on the street, however, are Somali immigrants. Many of the tiny businesses in the area are owned by Somali families. They have yet to have much representation in city government. That affects my choice here.
- Abdi Warsame–Warsame managed to capture the DFL nomination from the incumbent, which isn’t a small feat. I think there’s a sense, which I share to an extent, that it’s time for a good Somali candidate to sit on the council. Warsame is a good Somali candidate, particularly for Minneapolis. He’s less socially conservative than many of my neighbors, making him a decent fit for non-Somali constituents, and he has solid experience and accomplishments under his belt. He also has a slew of endorsements from people I respect.
- Robert Lilligren–All that being said, I wouldn’t be the least bit upset if Lilligren continued to represent me on the council. He’s not a touchy-feely, hand-holdy kind of council representative, but he’s done good things for our neighborhood, including its Somali residents. He’s a progressive who walks his talk, and as a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, he’s represented another sorely underserved minority in Minneapolis. This isn’t a fun or easy choice to make.
The rest of the candidates for this seat aren’t really what I would consider serious candidates. One of them isn’t even registered at an existing address. If you feel the need to put down a third choice here, Abdi Addow seems to be the only other candidate who’s done anything beyond filing. That’s really all I know about him.
If you live in another Minneapolis district, you could do worse than to read Naomi’s post on your election. The Star Tribune also has pretty good coverage of local elections this year, though you should be aware that they’re somewhat conservative in their reporting, both fiscally and in the sense of supporting the status quo.
Board of Estimate and Taxation (vote for three, top two vote-getters will serve)
This is a board for fiscal oversight. Whether you think it’s operated properly for the last several years will depend on how you feel about the city continuing to offer services and pay for infrastructure even as state subsidies to it have decreased. I’m not a fan of most austerity measures. I’m pretty happy with the current board.
- Carol Becker–One of the two incumbents, Becker is very excited by finance. She’s educated on the topic. She’s experienced.
- David Wheeler–Wheeler is the other incumbent. He’s proud of his record on holding down property tax increases. He has experience, though less than Wheeler.
- David Pascoe–Technically, with an MBA and a website, Pascoe passes my test for being a serious candidate. However, he seems to be generally against spending rather than having any specific ideas on what he would have done in the place of the people who have had these offices. Also, he was neither able to manage to set up a WordPress site properly or recruit a volunteer to do so. This doesn’t bode well.
- Douglas Sembla–I’m pretty sure I’ve met Sembla. I’d say he’s a decent activist, somewhat radical, probably even atheist. I just have no idea why he chose to file for this seat. He certainly doesn’t seem to be running very hard for it.
Park and Recreation Commissioner at Large (vote for three, top three vote-getters will serve)
It feels odd to have ranked-choice voting to fill the same number of seats as you get to make choices, but ultimately, that’s no big deal. This part is also harder because it’s not entirely unheard of, even now, for serious candidates to not have a campaign website. Luckily, there is some good community-based reporting happening (see also here).
- Annie Young–There are worse things than voting for a Green for your parks board. Young has a strong history of service on the board and a good record on environmental and access issues.
- John Erwin–Erwin is the other incumbent running this year. (Bob Fine, the third incumbent at-large board member, is running for mayor instead.) He has a good track record and the DFL endorsement. He is the board’s current chair.
- Ishmael Israel–Israel is one of many candidates who want to focus on making parks welcoming to all the city’s population. Of all those candidates, I think Israel’s community organizing work puts him in the best position to be effective.
- Jason Stone–Stone comes in close behind Israel for me. He has the same priorities but with a focus on a top-down solution that I’m not sure would be as effective.
- Tom Nordyke–Nordyke was formerly on the commission and is a former president of the commission. He doesn’t appear to have been voted for any reason other than the board reorganization that happened four years ago. However, he seems to be on the ballot just because. He doesn’t really seem to be campaigning for the seat, even though he secured the DFL nomination. He’s the only candidate without at least a Facebook campaign page.
- Meg Forney–Forney looks to be qualified for the position. She’s worked on plenty of parks committees, and they seem to keep inviting her back. Her website and the ads she’s run, however, are energetic but hint at tendencies to be a crank.
- Steve Barland–Barland is another parks volunteer with some experience running part of the system. His priorities are much the same as the other candidates’.
- Casper Hill–Hill is one of the “park lover” candidates. We only have three of them this year. Like many of them, I’m sure he’d add something valuable to the board, but there are simply better candidates. Of all these candidates, he has the most governmental experience, though it’s as a city spokesperson.
- Mary Lynn McPherson–McPherson is another “park lover” candidate. She’s also campaigning for political office advertising herself as “not a politician”. This always bugs me.
- Hashim Yonis–Yonis was fired from a parks job recently. His website still says more information is “coming soon”.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner District Three (vote for three)
In addition to at-large seats, each parks district gets its own representative on the commission.
- Scott Vreeland–Vreeland is the incumbent. His website looks terrible, but his strategic initiatives are sound. They’re a good mix of the several issues the commission will have to face over the next few years.
- Said Maye–Maye is a parks worker who appears to have been motivated to run by a need for more candidates of color. He doesn’t seem to be doing much in the way of campaigning, though, at least not online.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner District Two (vote for three)
This isn’t my district, but by this point, I feel I have a fair grasp on park issues, so I’m going through the rest of the contested races.
- Jon Olson–Olson is the incumbent. While his website is slightly out of date in spots, I like most of what’s been going on in his district, and so does he. He’s particularly focused on Minneapolis’s trees, which drive a big part of the city’s character and which face challenges with climate change that Olson seems to be on top of.
- David Luce–Luce seems to have been motivated to run by the fact that durable materials (plastics and shredded tires) are used in parts of some parks. His campaigning includes a lot of “power to the people” and not a lot of what he’d do if voters granted him some of that power.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner District Four (vote for three)
- Anita Tabb–Tabb doesn’t have a website for her campaign. The link, however, is to a YouTube video she did giving her policy positions. There isn’t a lot of criticism of her work, no more than I’d expect for anyone having to make policy. She also has the DFL endorsement.
- Bobby Davis–Davis is another “park lover” candidate, with nothing to tell us why he should be elected to govern except that he wants to be the people’s voice. Don’t click through to his website if you get motion sick.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner District Six (vote for three)
- Brad Bourne–Bourne is the incumbent. He lists several accomplishments he’s right to be proud of, and his priorities for the next four years are sound. He has the DFL endorsement, which his opponent also sought.
- Josh Nieman–Nieman is probably the strongest challenger for any district seat. He’s a former parks employee who has some specific initiatives he wants to carry out. However, his campaign seems to be more reactive–and to smaller issues–than I want to see.
There are two ballot initiatives to update the city’s charter to something much closer to plain English. This desperately needs to happen if we want people to be able to understand how the city is supposed to function. Aside from removing some things from the charter that should be in city ordinances instead (or are complete anachronisms), the only changes are to make the document easier to read. The only objection I’ve seen raised is that changes to the language will result in new challenges to the meaning of the document. Those could be substantial, but they would eventually get mostly settled. It doesn’t seem too high a price to pay for a document that people other than lawyers can understand.
I recommend voting, “Yes”, to both of these questions.