Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges vowed to defend the city against the policies of president-elect Donald Trump as she kicked off her re-election bid Thursday evening, painting a bleak picture of what she sees as looming threats to the city.
After checking off accomplishments during her first term — including passing an earned sick time ordinance, equipping Minneapolis police officers with body cameras and leading fundraising for Downtown East Commons — Hodges turned to the aftermath of November’s presidential election.
“We know that progressive cities like Minneapolis, and those of us who love them and tend to them, will be under attack under President Trump,” Hodges told about 40 supporters who gathered at Urban Ventures in south Minneapolis. “These times require a mayor who can continue to lead the way toward making Minneapolis a shining beacon of progressive light and accomplishment in a time of authoritarian darkness.”
Hodges’ announcement comes at a time of heightened tensions between City Hall and minority communities, but also as she has faced criticism from business leaders for pushing measures that they say were too burdensome and expensive.
Hodges said that she hasn’t “talked loudly enough” about her accomplishments, appearing to address critics who say she has been too low key and behind the scenes. She went on to defend her “deliberate, intentional leadership” and drew a parallel between herself and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“Look at our most recent election. The leadership and accomplishments of the woman who ... was more ready than any candidate in our history to become president were constantly dismissed, constantly belittled, constantly undermined,” said Hodges, a vocal Clinton backer. “I know something about that.”
Ibrahim Nur, 32, was among the crowd of supporters Thursday evening who praised Hodges.
The mayor has built relationships with the East African community since she was elected, he said, and stood up for immigrants and Muslims amid Trump’s threatening campaign rhetoric.
“She did so many great things,” he said. “She stood for us. She fought back.”
Hodges was elected in 2013 after serving on the Minneapolis City Council since 2006. She succeeded three-term Mayor R.T. Rybak, who opted not to seek re-election.
In her first campaign for mayor, Hodges shared her vision for “One Minneapolis” — an effort to break down racial inequities in jobs, education, housing and criminal justice. She rose to the top of a 35 candidate field, defeating experienced contenders including former state DFL Party chairman Mark Andrew.
But as mayor, Hodges has faced near-constant criticism: from business owners for her efforts to impose workplace scheduling requirements; from Black Lives Matter activists for her response to the 2015 police shooting of Jamar Clark; from the police union for her handling of the protests that followed.
As Hodges wraps up her third year on the job, her economic and social initiatives — including One Minneapolis and the Working Families Agenda — have often been overshadowed by public safety concerns.
As the City Council prepared to pass its 2017 budget earlier in December, dozens of people — many attached to advocacy group Neighborhoods Organizing for Change — spoke at public hearings in protest of $4 million for the Minneapolis police force.
The same week, Minneapolis business leaders sent Hodges a scathing letter demanding a response to “unchecked flagrant, aggressive and sometimes criminal behavior” downtown.
The issue of public safety has been “below the surface for the entire time that she’s been in office,” said Minneapolis Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer, one of the business leaders who signed the letter.
Hodges has reached out to business leaders recently to discuss her plans for re-election, Cramer said, and has identified public safety as something she wants to focus on in 2017.
Other hopefuls emerge
Though the mayoral field isn’t expected to be as crowded as it was three years ago, Hodges is already facing competition from rivals trying to gain traction with groups she has struggled to win over.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, community activist and past president of the Minneapolis NAACP, announced in November that she plans to run for mayor.
First-term City Council member Jacob Frey, who represents business-heavy areas of downtown Minneapolis and the North Loop, said he is strongly considering jumping into the race.
With the election still nearly a year away, other candidates are likely to emerge in the coming weeks.
“Our work as a city and a people is not done — in many ways in these times, it is just beginning anew,” said Hodges, noting Urban Ventures’ work creating fathering programs for young men and after-school programs for children. “My work as your mayor is not done, either — in many ways, it too is beginning anew.”
Staff writer Randy Furst contributed to this report.