Green Party candidate vies for Ward 3

Kristina Gronquist is running for City Council with the Green Party’s endorsement.

Cody Nelson

While most of the attention is focused on Democratic City Council candidates Diane Hofstede and Jacob Frey, a third candidate is carving her own niche in Ward 3.

Fifty-seven-year-old Kristina Gronquist, the Green Party-endorsed candidate, is running a quiet but steady campaign, focusing on issues like Dinkytown development and police profiling.

The 2002 University of Minnesota graduate and lifelong Minneapolis resident lives in the Northeast area with her 22-year-old daughter and 94-year-old father, where she balances running a campaign and working full time at the Eastside Food Cooperative.

In some ways, Gronquist’s Green Party affiliation makes campaigning more difficult.

The party wants to “take the money out of politics,” Gronquist said, so candidates can’t accept funds from any political action committee.  In addition, city law only allows Council candidates to accept donations of up to $300 from individuals, placing further limits on Gronquist’s campaign finances.

No University groups have officially endorsed her, but Gronquist said she’ll reach out to some this fall as the election nears.

Ward 3 traditionally favors Democrats, but Gronquist believes her involvement and commitment give her a shot at winning.

“It’s a track record of activism, and that counts for something,” she said.

University political science professor Larry Jacobs  said Minneapolis and Duluth are both “hot spots” for third-party candidates.

“Minneapolis is ground zero for third-party politics, and if the Green Party can win anywhere in Minnesota, it’s in Minneapolis or Duluth,” he said. “I wouldn’t rule her out.”

Gronquist says the Green Party is a “natural fit” for students because it’s progressive and environmentally conscious.

“It’s a party that’s about the future,” she said. “I don’t know why any student wouldn’t vote Green.”

Forrest Fritz-Storhaug, a campaign volunteer and recent Minneapolis Community and Technical College  graduate, agreed with Gronquist and said he’s even converted some of his friends to support the campaign.

“[Green Party candidates] actually will take action,” he said. “They will go out on a limb.”

Fritz-Storhaug, who has known Gronquist as a family friend for years, said her kindness sets her apart from other candidates.

“She just really cares,” he said. “Her compassion and her ideas about equal rights are just very positive, and that’s very important [to her].”

The Green Party has endorsed four other candidates for City Council,  including Ward 2 incumbent Cam Gordon, who represents the east side of the University campus.

Gordon said Gronquist would be a good fit for the recently redistricted ward, adding that he’s excited another Green Party candidate is running for City Council.

“The more diversity we have up here, sometimes, the better results,” he said.

Jacobs said the resources available to DFL-endorsed candidate Frey are important, but third-party candidates still have a chance at winning.

“In general, it’s an uphill battle,” he said. “But it’s not out of the question.”

But Frey is still confident in his campaign and said he’d like to work with Gronquist on bettering Minneapolis neighborhoods in the future.

“I feel very confident in the ability of our campaign going forward,” Frey said.

A new take on housing

Gronquist’s perspective as a University graduate makes her no stranger to Dinkytown.

With the area’s recent development boom, Gronquist said Dinkytown needs a balance between old and new.

“Dinkytown can’t stay frozen,” she said, adding she realizes development increases the tax base.

The campaign’s volunteer treasurer and Macalester College professor Erik Larson said Gronquist’s experience as a community leader and citizen in Minneapolis gives her an advantage over the other candidates on multiple issues, including housing.

 “She’ll get to know people,” he said. “She’ll get to know what’s important for people in the ward.”

Gronquist said she worries a “glut” of single-use development around the University could replace Dinkytown’s charm and history.

“Obviously it’s not local businesses that are being supported in this process,” she said.

To increase the amount of affordable housing in University-area neighborhoods and elsewhere in Minneapolis, Gronquist wants to make carriage houses legal again in the city.

Carriage houses, also known as coach houses, are smaller houses on the same property as a larger house, typically made from converted garages or sheds.

“They can be quite charming,” Gronquist said.

Minneapolis currently outlaws them, but Gronquist said the city is considering her proposal to change that.

Gronquist said she also wants to research the area’s housing needs to understand how to best serve residents.

Larson said he joined Gronquist’s campaign this spring because she’s able to make change while remaining humble and personable.

“It’s that personal, professional and community experience that she has,” he said.

A change in focus

Gronquist ran for City Council Ward 1 twice in the 1980s but lost both races.

This time, her problems with the new Vikings stadium approval process were a primary catalyst in deciding to run.

She called the stadium “unnecessary” and said it should have been put to a vote so citizens could’ve approved its building and funding methods.

“I can’t think of anything less sustainable than blowing up a big concrete stadium,” she said.

But on May 10, her platform shifted when her friend Terrance Franklin was shot and killed by Minneapolis police.

Gronquist believes Franklin’s death is an instance of police misconduct and racial profiling, issues on which she is now focusing her campaign.

She said the African-American community in Minneapolis feels “under siege.” If elected, Gronquist wants to set up an independent investigative board to look into controversial cases like Franklin’s death.

“We can’t have the police investigating themselves,” she said.

The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis has endorsed  incumbent Hofstede. Gronquist said this is part of the problem, adding that she thinks the endorsement quiets Hofstede on issues of police misconduct.

Hofstede said Minneapolis police already have ways of working with officers and the public on issues of police profiling.

“I think it’s unfair to globally paint our police department as engaging in that activity,” Hofstede said.

Gronquist has organized protests with the Justice for Terrance Franklin  campaign.

“Terrance is still gone, he’s still gone,” she said. “And the police officers aren’t held accountable.”