Tuesday's elections had the possibility of putting as many as three Somali candidates into elected office, carrying on the legacy of the late Hussein Samatar, but only one crossed the electoral threshold.
That was Abdi Warsame, the victor for City Council in the Sixth Ward, where he swamped incumbent Robert Lilligren, becoming the council's first Somali member.
But in Eden Prairie, Mushid Barud, finished a distant fifth in a school board race, while in Mankato, Abdi Sabrie was a distant fourth, for that district's board.
But the state may gain a second Somali in public office when it fills the seat of Samatar, who made history in 2010 as the state's first elected Somali. He died in August. Two Somalis, Ubah Ali Juma, who is Samatar';s widow, and Mohamud Noor, are among the four applicants competing to be appointed by the Minneapolis baord to the District seat on Tuesday. The other two applicants, Ira Jourdain and Nicque M. Mabrey, are of Indian heritage.
The appointee will be sworn in during the board's Dec.10 meeting, and serve through the end of 2014.
(Photo: Abdi Warsame)
Updated: 7:12 p.m
By Eric Roper and Maya Rao
A political action committee affiliated with Basim Sabri is behind inflammatory fliers distributed in South Minneapolis disparaging Sixth Ward Council Member Robert Lilligren, who is locked in a tight race with Abdi Warsame.
The fliers were condemned by Warsame, who said his campaign had nothing to do with them. They were stuck on car windshields and otherwise littered around Stevens Square Tuesday afternoon.
“He should retract it and should apologize. He should not have used my name,” Warsame said Tuesday afternoon, referring to Sabri, a developer who went to prison for bribing a city council member.
If Sabri had personal grudges, Warsame said, that’s between him and Lilligren. Warsame said his campaign would post a statement opposing the ad on its Facebook page.
The two-sided leaflets encourage people to vote for Warsame, who is waging an aggressive campaign that could make him the highest-elected Somali politician in Minnesota.
One side says: "Why you SHOULD NOT vote for incumbent R.L.?" and makes a number of broad allegations about Lilligren, including: "Anti-minority, poor, and elderly benefit programs."
A Star Tribune reporter picked up one of the fliers after a reader highlighted the issue on Twitter.
Sabri said Tuesday evening that he has donated to the group and supports their efforts. But to blame Warsame, he added, is unfair. He said neither he nor the PAC ever consulted with or contributed to Warsame, and that he doesn’t even know the candidate personally.
“Anybody who ran against Lilligren would get my support … If Hitler ran against Lilligren, I personally will support him," Sabri said.
The Lilligren campaign said they have heard reports about the fliers appearing in the Ventura Village, Stevens Square and Phillips areas overnight.
“It’s unfortunate that our candidates and their supporters feel the need to go so negative here at the end," said Lilligren campaign manager Trista Schwind. "But we really have faith that the voters will select who they want to represent them and we’ll see that in our results tonight.”
The fliers say they were created by "Power by the People," which is chaired by a relative of Sabri who shares an office address with him.
Police looked into a Sabri connection in 2009 after similar "postcards containing false allegations" about Lilligren were distributed prior to Election Day.
As mayoral contenders tried to answer a question about how they would address the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, the moderator of a campaign forum this week reminded them, “This is not ‘I’m going to give everybody two minutes and go down the line.’”
When everyone burst into laughter, Jackie Cherryhomes told the crowd, “We’re used to someone with a buzzer that says stop! Stop now!”
“You’re throwing us off our game here,” chimed in Council Member Betsy Hodges.
The event was hosted by the Theater of Public Policy, a group that performs improv comedy about political issues and spurred candidates on Wednesday evening to break a little more out of the talking points they have already recited at dozens of forums this year.
Tane Danger moderated the forum with six candidates at Bryant Lake Bowl, leading on-stage discussions with the aspiring mayors that offered rich material for the improv cast to parody. The actors poked fun at how Cherryhomes’ husband had skipped the forum to go to the Timberwolves game while Hodges proudly pointed out her husband was sitting in the audience, and lampooned a statement by Cam Winton, who deals with wind turbine maintenance, that in his field if you over-promise and under-deliver people can see it from miles away. Several sketches mocked Kmart’s blockage of Nicollet Avenue.
The highlight of the evening came when candidates were asked about the form of transportation they used to get to Bryant Lake Bowl. Minneapolis Park Commissioner Bob Fine stripped down to a Superman costume on stage, provoking roars of laughter while Hodges, sitting next to him, looked on in horror.
“He is the commissioner!” said Danger. “He is the commissioner!”
When the reaction subsided, Fine took a serious turn, saying, “I certainly didn’t come here by streetcar, because we can’t afford it.” He was referring to a matter that has become a staple of candidate discussions: whether to back the proposed Nicollet-Central streetcar.
In between the high fives, jokes, and Superman hullabaloo, participants had some robust discussions about the most important issues facing Minneapolis.
During a discussion on subsidies, Cherryhomes acknowledged that the city’s investment in the now ailing Block E while she was City Council president in the 1990s was a mistake.
“Bad idea,” she said. “I own it. It was on my dime. I think we all made the best decision we could make at the time with the information we had, but I think we tried to fit a square peg in a round hole … . You learn from it, you move on.”
The crowd applauded when Winton said he wished more leaders “had the guts” to say they had screwed something up and had learned from it.
After saying that the city has been too lavish with subsidies in the past, Council Member Don Samuels tried to prove his fiscal responsibility by telling the audience that he was the candidate “who has the best dollar value for their popularity.” He tied for first place in a September poll by the Star Tribune and was heavily outspent by three other candidates.
During a heated discussion on how to resolve the year-long orchestra lockout, Winton reiterated his view that if management and labor cannot come to an agreement, the Orchestra Hall should be repurposed to help the needy. The facility received state funding for a recent renovation.
Cherryhomes called him out, saying, “Let’s be real … it’s not that easy. The city doesn’t own the building.” She said there are entanglements with other entities that would prevent that.
The candidates generally did agree that the city must use its leverage to force a resolution, given that the facility has received public money.
Sitting somewhat awkwardly in his costume for the rest of the evening, Fine made a campaign stumble when the candidates were asked if they had seen any homeless people recently. He said had seen them as he flew over the city.
As the evening wound down, Hodges pointed out, “We have been sitting here talking about very serious issues and Bob Fine is dressed like Superman.”
“You don’t know what I have on,” software executive Stephanie Woodruff piped in.
In a speech billed as the "closing argument" after a year-long campaign, Betsy Hodges on Thursday accused her opponent Mark Andrew of trying to "buy his way into the mayor's office."
Her remarks came as Andrew announced yet another high-profile DFL endorsement, this time from House Speaker Paul Thissen.
Much like her speech to the DFL convention in July, Hodges framed the election as a decision between moving forward or returning to the politics of yesteryear.
"Do we take on our toughest challenge, knowing it will lead to our brightest future? Do we choose One Minneapolis?" Hodges said, according to prepared remarks (below). "Or do we choose the old way, the inside baseball way, the way about special deals and old boys network and who you know? The way of corporate subsidies, and lip service to communities of color?"
While not referencing Andrew by name, it was heavily implied. "We are not one Minneapolis when the candidate for mayor with the biggest war chest and the most money from big donors tries to buy his way into the mayor’s office," Hodges said. Andrew has raised more than any other candidate in the race.
The rally and speech occured at 612 Brew in Northeast Minneapolis.
Andrew's campaign announced Thissen's endorsement half an hour after Hodges was scheduled to deliver her speech.
“Mark Andrew is the one candidate in this race with the progressive pedigree and collaborative strength to keep our city moving forward," Thissen, who represents South Minneapolis, said in a statement.
Andrew already boasts the most establishment support in the race.
His other endorsements include former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman and an array of current and former legislators and school board members.
Update: Andrew's campaign spokeswoman, Marion Greene, responded that Andrew has built the broadest and most diverse coalition. "Earning broad support is the sign of a leader who can move Minneapolis forward, and that's what she’s attacking here," Greene said in an emailed statement. She said Hodges had made a personal loan the size of a new car to her campaign, and that "it's clear who’s trying to buy her way into the mayor's office."
Photo credit: File / Jerry Holt
The public will get a chance to voice opinions on the proposed Target Center renovation deal when the City Council meets in committee on Nov. 8 at 10 a.m.
Committee of the Whole Chairman Robert Lilligren announced Thursday that the panel of all council members will take public comment--albeit not hold a formal hearing--at the meeting. That will fall three days after city elections.
Mayor R.T. Rybak said after the committee met Thursday to review the proposal that he's "confident this will move through" the council on Nov. 14, when it is scheduled to vote.
The deal calls for a $97 million building investment, about half by the city, and most of the rest from the Timberwolves, with a smaller share from building manager AEG. The deal keeps the team at the arena for another seven years, to 2032, and calls for some revenue capture if the team is sold.
"It's pretty good to get private people to put $50 million into a public building," Rybak said. The deal actually calls for a $48.5 million team-AEG financial commitment, equal to the city's share.
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