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‘Always running,’ Frey sets sights on council

The former Team USA runner looks to unseat Diane Hofstede, the councilwoman for Ward 3.
Minneapolis attorney Jacob Frey, center, talks campaign strategy on Thursday at his home in the Nicollet Island neighborhood. Frey will be running against incumbent Diane Hofstede to represent Ward 3 on the Minneapolis City Council.
Image by Emily Dunker
Minneapolis attorney Jacob Frey, center, talks campaign strategy on Thursday at his home in the Nicollet Island neighborhood. Frey will be running against incumbent Diane Hofstede to represent Ward 3 on the Minneapolis City Council.

Jacob Frey has been running his entire life.

This time it’s for Minneapolis City Council.

The former Team USA competitor-turned-lawyer is taking on two-term Councilwoman Diane Hofstede in the newly redistricted Ward 3 — a diverse area that encompasses parts of Northeast Minneapolis, downtown, Dinkytown and Marcy-Holmes.

“What’s great about the City Council is that you can have a lot of quick, tangible benefit to peoples’ lives,” Frey said.

In the three-and-a-half years since he moved to Minneapolis, Frey, 31, has worked at two law firms, organized the Big Gay Race to help defeat the marriage amendment and ran for state Senate in the special election for District 59 last winter.

Originally from northern Virginia, Frey moved to Minneapolis in 2009 after falling in love with the city at the Twin Cities marathon a few years before.

“It’s a city that’s kind of like a neighborhood in many ways, and that’s what I would like to further,” Frey said. “And, in our ward, a big part of that is inclusion of students.”

Jeremy Reichenberger, president of College Democrats at the University of Minnesota, is among those helping organize Frey’s campaign.

“I decided to get involved with his campaign because I really respect when new leadership wants to make students more involved in the political process,” said activism and aesthetics senior Reichenberger. “Students are traditionally a kind of underrepresented group.”

The campaign is pushing for the Democratic endorsement convention to take place before the end of the spring semester, when students leave campus.

Frey has a diverse campaign staff from all around the ward, including former Minnesotans United for All Families youth organizer Mike Griffin and second-year University law student Ryan Kennedy, who also helped in Frey’s Senate campaign.

“No matter how much on-the-ground support you have and people who are supporting you all across a district, money is always going to be something that has sway in elections,” Kennedy said.

Frey’s opponent and current councilwoman Hofstede said she’s looking forward to running a robust campaign like she has in the past.

“I have the relationships that I think are necessary and important to have a successful ward, and the history and the experience,” Hofstede said.

She didn’t specify if she would abide by a party endorsement in the spring.

“I’ve always received the endorsement,” she said, “so I expect that I will this time as well.”

‘Always running’

According to his mom, Jamie Frey, the aspiring politician has always wanted to run for public office, even though she tried to dissuade him.

“Of course we used to tease him and say, ‘Well, it’s just running again, Jacob, you’re always running, running for something,’” Jamie Frey said. “But he knew he wanted to do that, he knew that was his calling, I guess.”

For Frey, politics was a natural progression from his background in public service.

He said to influence change in the community, he first had to understand the law — so he went to law school.

Now he said he hopes to shape that law from a position on the council.

“I want to have a positive impact on a community,” Frey said. “And I don’t know that I’ll be a lifelong politician; I just want to have a positive impact now.”

In 2011, he and his wife started the Big Gay Race to provide support for the fight against the now-defeated marriage amendment.

“It shouldn’t just be the people who are getting screwed over that are doing the fighting,” Frey said. “It should be all of us.”

In addition to working to defeat the amendment, Frey represented tenants in north Minneapolis following the spring 2011 tornado, works with Somali women on health and empowerment and is calling on the city to implement mandatory mediation for those facing foreclosure.

For his civil rights work in the city, Frey won Minneapolis’ first annual Martin Luther King Community Member Award, which recognizes “achievements in making Minneapolis no place for prejudice.”

He also currently serves on the Minneapolis Capital Long Range Improvement Committee and is chair of the PAC for the gun-regulation group Protect Minnesota.

Frey said he’s able to handle a lot at once, and his mom said he gets everything done and still has time to call her at least every other day.

“I have overcommitted before, absolutely, but I am able to juggle multiple balls, and I think that, honestly, is what will enable me to be a good City Council member,” Frey said.

‘You get out what you put in’

Frey describes himself as “intense”; others call him “focused” and “goal-oriented.”

As a runner, Frey had a lifelong goal of running for the U.S. His senior year of college, he broke his foot after training on a stress fracture and had to decide whether to continue.

He got surgery, recovered, and the USA jersey now hangs in his law office.

“I loved, and I still love, the idea that with running, you get out what you put in,” Frey said. “My talent as a runner wasn’t in my speed; it wasn’t in my form or in my fluidity — it was that I could train more and harder than anybody else.”

As a freshman in high school, Frey told his parents that he would be state champion, so he trained before and after school, getting up as early as 4 a.m. to run.

“It would drive us all crazy, but by senior year, he was state champion in the 2-mile,” Jamie Frey said.

As Frey ran, he’d see all the different areas of his town.

“You see areas that are prospering, and you see areas that are struggling, and you see all different kinds of people,” Frey said. “And seeing what’s out there and seeing sort of the different levels of society makes you want to help out those areas that are struggling.”

Frey aims to do just that as the councilman for Ward 3.

“He’s just someone who’s coming to politics from a genuine interest in helping his community get better,” Kennedy said. “That’s something you don’t always see in politics.”

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