Mayoral candidate Mark Andrew took an early lead at the DFL’s endorsing convention Saturday afternoon, capturing 42 percent of the delegate votes on the second ballot.
The former Hennepin County Commissioner, who was seen as the front-runner heading into the convention, was followed by Council Members Betsy Hodges with 31.5 percent and Gary Schiff with 25.2 percent on the second ballot. Schiff did not meet the 30 percent threshold needed to advance to the third ballot.
A candidate needs 60 percent of the votes to be endorsed.
Council Member Don Samuels, former Council President Jackie Cherryhomes and special education teacher Jim Thomas were all knocked out of contention because they received less than 10 percent of the vote.
Schiff, Andrew and Hodges have pledged to abide by the party's endorsement. Cherryhomes, Thomas and Samuels have not. If there is an endorsement Saturday, that candidate would have a significant boost heading into the November election.
"I was never focused on this environment," Cherryhomes said after the first ballot. "I’ve always been focused on the broader election and moving towards November.”
The first ballot results followed a long morning of speeches and procedural debates.
Among the noteworthy moments was a speech by Hodges, who sought to draw a contrast between her tenure and that of Andrew and Cherryhomes.
“Will we go back to the 90s, when elected officials thought our city had so little to offer that people and businesses would only come here with a subsidy?” Hodges asked. “No, we will not."
She elaborated that her first time stepping foot in City Hall was in the late 1990s to protest the development deal that became Block E. "It was infuriating," she said. "Why were we acting like Minneapolis had to beg? Why were we acting like big corporate subsidies would save our city?”
Former Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, who oversaw the Block E deal, offered a veiled response during a speech supportive of Cherryhomes.
"I want to tell you with no embarrassment whatsoever that the investments of the past have laid the foundation for our future," Sayles Belton said.
Cherryhomes added: "Much of what we did was excellent, was very very good. And I am very proud of it. Sure we made some mistakes, everyone makes some mistakes. But I have chosen to learn from those mistakes and to do better the next time.”
Later, during a question and answer period, Samuels offered an impassioned explanation of how he would fight for gun control.
“If I can stand up to a guy with a gun in his wasteband in the north Jordan neighborhood, I can stand up to an NRA executive with a gun on his letterhead," Samuels said.
Schiff drew applause when he said he would stand up against subsidies.
"We need to get the debt of big sports facilities off the city taxpayers' back," Schiff said. "I will fight to [alleviate] the burden of the Vikings stadium, the target center, the convention center, for a reasonable solution.”
Photo: Candidates Andrew, Schiff, Thomas, Samuels, Hodges and Cherryhomes (Jim Gehrz)