Rybak accuses Stenglein of ‘push polling’ in mayoral race

Tim Sturrock

DFL mayoral candidate R.T. Rybak accused independent candidate Mark Stenglein on Tuesday of having campaigners pose as pollsters, call voters and defame Rybak’s candidacy.

Laura Sether, Rybak’s co-campaign manager, said the candidate’s office received calls from four supporters about pollsters who allegedly called Rybak an extremist and said he had few original ideas.

Mike Alm, vice president for St. Paul-based Polytel – a conservative fund-raising and polling company – said his office had been paid to do polls by a group called Citizens for a Better Minneapolis and not by Stenglein or his campaign.

“To the best of my knowledge, (Stenglein’s campaign officials) don’t even know it’s going on,” Alm said.

According to Alm, the pollsters ask if the resident plans on voting, what issues are most important to the resident and for whom the resident plans to vote.

Alm said that if the voter responded “R.T. Rybak,” the pollster then would inform the voter that Rybak had never held public office. The pollster would then ask if the voter is more likely to vote for Rybak with this new knowledge.

Alm’s version of the script matches that of the Rybak supporters, except Alm denies allegations that pollsters called Rybak an extremist or defamed him.

Alm said when voters responded “Mark Stenglein” to the third question, the pollsters thanked the voters, reminded them to vote and ended the call.

He said his company was only identifying voters and that telling voters the truth is not a negative tactic.

Stenglein denied any involvement and said he has never heard of Citizens for a Better Minneapolis.

“This is absolutely outrageous and it’s false,” he said.

Stenglein said in a press conference Tuesday he knew nothing of the poll and demanded that Polytel stop.

Independence Party mayoral candidate Lisa McDonald said she wasn’t surprised when three of her supporters called with stories similar.

McDonald said pollsters asked her supporters if they knew that taxes had gone up during her term on the City Council. McDonald said she did not vote for any tax increases in her tenure.

McDonald said one voter told her a pollster wrongly said McDonald did not vote for garbage pickup.