Student group forms to support Hodges

Students Unite for Betsy Hodges is working to make the candidate visible on campus.

Alexi Gusso

With 35 candidates on the November ballot, some University of Minnesota students are joining to support their favorite mayoral contender.

Urban Studies senior Andrew Degerstrom, co-founder of Students Unite for Betsy Hodges, said voting for the next mayor of Minneapolis is a “no-brainer.”

The student group formed last month for the sole purpose of supporting current Ward 13 City Councilwoman Betsy Hodges and getting other students to back her mayoral campaign.

It’s the only University student group officially registered under a city candidate’s name. It was formed independently of the Hodges campaign, though students got help from people on the campaign.

“They wanted to find a way to engage students and show them why Betsy is the best candidate for them,” said Osman Ahmed, Hodges campaign campus organizer.

The campaign already has a lot of student volunteers and interns who want to engage with the rest of the University community, he said.

“One of the main goals of the group right now is to have conversations with students,” said political science sophomore Skyler Dorr, who co-founded the student group. “And so far that’s working.”

Degerstrom, who worked as an intern for Hodges’ campaign in May, said the student group will phone bank, recruit volunteers, door knock in residence halls and discuss Hodges’ platform on campus.

Hodges said young people are attracted to her campaign because of her “progressive” ideas for the city.

“It means a great deal to me to have that student support and that vote of confidence,” she said.

The University’s College Democrats announced their endorsement for former city commissioner Mark Andrew in July. But some students wanted to support a different candidate, Hodges’ campaign spokesman Aaron Wells said.

Degerstrom said the College Democrats held a “closed” endorsement process in June and didn’t reach out to Hodges to speak to the group.

“All of a sudden there were all these people who were affiliated with the College Democrats who were already supporting [Hodges] and were kind of shut out of that organization,” Wells said.

Hodges said she participated in a forum with several DFL mayoral candidates that the College Democrats hosted during their endorsement process, but there was “no official screening.”

It’s important to raise awareness on campus about candidates besides Andrew, Degerstrom said.

“[Andrew] is not the DFL-endorsed candidate, nor is he the only DFL candidate running, and so we thought that it was really important to start a student group,” he said.

There are currently fewer than a dozen members in the group, but those involved are “working hard to get more members,” Dorr said.

After the Nov. 5 election, Degerstrom said, the group’s future is uncertain.

“That’s a conversation we haven’t had yet,” he said. “I would love for the group to be repurposed, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”