Diane Hofstede notched what could be regarded as a political walkover when she won reelection in 2009 against four low-profile opponents.
This time, the 65-year-old St. Anthony West neighborhood resident, who said she intends to seek another term, may not have it so easy.
Lawyer Jacob Frey has been making the rounds of neighborhood associations in the Third Ward as well as sounding out key ward figures. He said last week he's planning to run.
Hofstede brings considerable assets to a bid for another term. First, the Hofstede name looms large on the East Side of Minneapolis, which still dominates the ward geographically. Second, she entered this year with a campaign treasury of almost $35,000, three times as much as most council incumbents, and spent $103,000 to win her first council election in 2005. Third, her husband Tony, brother of ex-mayor Al Hofstede, is personally popular in the area and a successful businessman.
But there are factors that could also make for a wide-open race. The most notable is that redistricting reshaped the ward. Gone are the North Side neighborhoods of McKinley and Hawthorne, where a number of Hofstede’s critics live. She retains the East Side neighborhoods stretching from Bottineau to Marcy Holmes, the latter a bastion of her past support. But what has the potential to throw the ward up for grabs is the addition of three downtown precincts formerly represented by Lisa Goodman. They contain 30 percent of the ward's registered voters.
Frey last surfaced
as a candidate in the special election for Senate District 59, finishing fifth of six candidates in the DFL primary behind mostly better-known opponents. He attributes that to being a relative unknown in a truncated campaign. He said that starting early would overcome that disadvantage in a ward race, and that if he runs, he’s in it for the long run.
That’s no understatement. Frey ranked as high as 10th
on the list of U.S. marathoners in 2007, while a law student at Villanova, logging 150-mile weeks. He said that illustrates his capacity for hard work, his determination and his ability to multi-task. Indeed, he told the Austin American-Statesman in 2008 that he trained while listening to law lectures on an Ipod. (Wife Michelle Fry finished third on June 16 in the women’s U.S. half-marathon championship in Duluth.)
Frey is 30, lives in the Nicollet Island-East Bank neighborhood and is a Virginia native who moved to Minneapolis in 2009. He was appointed earlier this year by Mayor R.T. Rybak to the city’s long-range capital planning committee, chaired by Tony Hofstede. He said the overarching issue of his campaign is likely to be making the city and ward areas that attract and retain families. He’d also like to foster more development projects in the ward, and modify city job training efforts. He’s engaged in a variety of causes, ranging from pushing for mandatory foreclosure mediation between lender and borrower to founding The Big Gay Race, a riverfront 5K race that raised money to oppose the marriage amendment.
That race also provided a network of contacts that he said forms a ready supply of volunteers in every precinct of the ward if he runs. Some estimate that mounting a credible challenge to Hofstede could cost $75,000.
Frey took one swipe at Hofstede during an interview. “You can count on me to call you back within 24 hours,” he said. That references past criticism
of Hofstede from some constituents that their phone calls and e-mails aren’t returned, something attributable in part to the cycling of short-term or temporary workers through her office. The total number of aides she’s employed in what are normally two-aide council offices has now risen to 30 in her six and one-half years in office.
Hofstede chairs the city's audit committee and successfully restored money
for a third city auditor after Rybak proposed a cut. She was also a steadfast supporter of Rybak’s Vikings stadium plan and now sits on the stadium implementation committee . She was the founding chair of the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership. She said she had no comment on Frey’s exploratory effort.