No DFL endorsement in Minneapolis mayor race

Mayoral candidates Mark Andrew, Gary Schiff, Jim Thomas, Don Samuels, Betsy Hodges, and Jackie Cherryhomes answer questions during a Q&A session at the DFL's city convention on Saturday, June 15, 2013, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Jaak Jensen

Mayoral candidates Mark Andrew, Gary Schiff, Jim Thomas, Don Samuels, Betsy Hodges, and Jackie Cherryhomes answer questions during a Q&A session at the DFL’s city convention on Saturday, June 15, 2013, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Kia Farhang

After a full day of speeches and voting, the Minneapolis DFL ended its convention Saturday night without endorsing a candidate for the city’s mayoral race.

Six candidates entered the convention hoping to secure the endorsement — and the access to DFL files and resources that come with it.

Since there was no formal endorsement, all six DFL candidates who were seeking endorsement will continue to run.

At the last count, former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew was in the lead after capturing half of delegates’ votes. Minneapolis City Council member Betsy Hodges was in second place with 44 percent of votes.

Hodges’ supporters left after the fourth round of voting, so there weren’t enough delegates left at the convention to authorize a nomination.

“We came from nowhere and we stormed the city,” Andrew said after the last vote. His supporters pointed out Andrew’s share of the vote rose steadily in each successive round of balloting.

The convention didn’t use the ranked choice voting method that Minneapolis voters will encounter when they choose a mayor in November.

Candidates at the convention needed 60 percent of the votes to secure the nomination. Andrew came closest with half of the votes in the last official ballot.

Hodges peaked at 47 percent and then lost steam. Between the third and fourth rounds of voting, it became clear that no one would secure the votes necessary for endorsement.

City Council member Gary Schiff, who was seen as a top contender, withdrew his name earlier in the afternoon and urged his supporters to back Hodges. Critics called it a move to block the endorsement process.

Minneapolis DFL Chair Dan McConnell said he’s seen endorsement processes get blocked before. Although no one was endorsed Saturday, an endorsement is still possible.

In situations where the convention proves fruitless, a central committee of about 130 members can go through the same voting process and pick a candidate on behalf of the larger organization.

“People have tried it,” McConnell said, but he currently has no plans to call the committee.

The bottom three candidates — City Council member Don Samuels, former City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes and Minneapolis teacher Jim Thomas — were all cut from the ballot after the first round, when they failed to capture 10 percent of the vote from nearly 1,400 delegates.

Similar platforms

Candidates focused most of their speaking time on explaining how they would combat the gap between white and non-white city residents.

Schiff called himself a “classic American success story,” attributing his rise to City Council to a good education and his father’s union job.

“For far too many Americans,” he said, “that dream is no longer possible.” Schiff said he would invest in early childhood education to dismantle the “school to prison pipeline.”

Thomas questioned the long-term viability of the city’s public school system and said it needed more funding to stay competitive.

Hodges stressed the importance of not moving “back to the ‘90s,” when she said city officials attracted developers with subsidies.

She said she wants to expand the city’s transit system, which she said would attract more people to Minneapolis and increase the city’s tax base.

George Washington University sophomore and DFL intern, Hannah Flom, said Hodges’ support for transit is what makes her the best candidate.

Flom, a Minnesota native, said going to school in Washington, D.C. made her realize how much Minneapolis could improve.

“Minneapolis is a big city,” she said, “but we don’t always have the best way of getting around.”

Andrew touted his role in implementing the light rail system, adding that he also founded the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group while he was a University of Minnesota student in the early 1970s.

“None of these things were done by me alone,” he said.

His business experience taught Andrew how to bring competing interests and ideas together, he said, which would be essential to running a city.

Cherryhomes said she would restore basic city services like the police and fire departments.

Samuels, who emigrated from Jamaica, said he made a point not to move out of North Minneapolis.

“If you want to truly solve a problem,” he said, “you have to put yourself right in the middle of it.”

Students at the convention said they got involved in city affairs because it’s easier to reach politicians on a local level.

Heather Fithian, a political science senior at the University of Minnesota, said she became an intern for Schiff because of his pledge to rewrite the city code and because she finds working in local politics rewarding.

“I can see the impacts,” she said.