Eaton: A new mayor for Minneapolis

After an unprecedented year, election season is just around the corner.

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Emily Eaton

After a year of turmoil and upheaval, the citizens of Minneapolis will pick their next mayor on Tuesday, Nov. 2. The battle for mayor of Minneapolis is bound to be a contentious one. Incumbent Jacob Frey is running for reelection, but he faces two prominent challengers: Kate Knuth and Sheila Nezhad.

Minneapolis hasn’t put a Republican in the mayoral office since 1973. The Democratic-Farmer-Laborer Party (DFL) has a stronghold on Hennepin County, with 70% of voters going for Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election. While it may not be the most bipartisan to look only at Frey’s fellow DFL challengers, it certainly makes the most sense. The question going into this race is simple: What does Minneapolis need right now?

This is often, and incorrectly, reworded as “who” do we need now. The policies are more important than the person — though I think that’s a lesson many of us learned in 2020. Our political leaders are people. No matter who is put into office, they will make mistakes at some point. When considering who to rank as your number one (because Minneapolis is a beautiful utopia that uses ranked choice voting), it’s critical to look not just at the background of a candidate or how well spoken they are, but what change they have actually made and the concrete plans they have moving forward.

Current mayor Jacob Frey has the incumbency advantage, but his first term in office was rife with crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and subsequent summer of racial reckoning kept the administration (and its public relations department) on its toes. Despite all this, an August 2020 poll conducted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune found that Frey held onto an approval rating of 50 percent. His tumultuous first term wasn’t enough to knock him out of the running, but it also hasn’t guaranteed him reelection.

Frey’s focus for much of his original campaign and time in office was affordable housing. Candidate Kate Knuth is also honing in on this issue. In a state with remarkably brutal winters, providing residents with accessible housing is truly a matter of life or death. Frey’s website outlines his four pillars for affordable housing, including increasing pathways to housing, protecting renter’s rights, and creating more affordable housing units. He doesn’t outline how he plans to do those things. Knuth’s website sports fourteen bullet points of in-depth steps, many of which fall into one of Frey’s four categories — just with more detail. Knuth also ties in environmental and equity issues in her proposed pursuits. Our third potential candidate, Sheila Nezhad, outlines a few vision statements without actionable steps. Nezhad’s website also just screams “girlboss,” even if she’s focused on accessibility instead of gatekeeping.

While this is just a singular issue, it is representative of how the candidates would take on a term as mayor. Knuth is incredibly straightforward and in-depth, Nezhad is a big-picture thinker and Frey walks somewhere in the middle of the two. The question is, then, what do you want accomplished in Minneapolis over the next few years? What issues matter the most to you? And which candidate has the best plan to confront those exact issues?

We’ve still got time before the mayoral election, during which the candidates will likely try to differentiate themselves strongly enough to actually stand out. That’s easier said than done when they’re all part of the same party in an overwhelmingly liberal city, but I’m sure they’ll try anyway. As the race progresses, I have something to ask of you: Vote with your head, not with your heart.