Jacob Frey soundly defeated Mayor Betsy Hodges and 14 other candidates Tuesday after presenting himself as a mayor who will be visible, willing to compromise and relentlessly enthusiastic about the city.
A 36-year-old native of Virginia who was drawn to Minneapolis after running a marathon here, Frey is a lawyer and first-term City Council member representing parts of downtown and northeast Minneapolis.
“We’re going to get right to work,” he said Wednesday, as staff gathered at his campaign headquarters on Hennepin Avenue right after his victory was announced. “We are a divided city in many respects, and the first item of business is to mend wounds, unite around shared goals and create a collective recognition that a deviation in strategy doesn’t mean a difference in morals.”
Throughout the year, Frey battled Hodges, who had never lost an election, two insurgent candidates from the left — Nekima Levy-Pounds and Raymond Dehn — and a challenger from the right, Tom Hoch, who sank nearly a half-million dollars of his own money into mailers and TV ads.
In the campaign, Frey promised to dramatically boost funding for affordable housing, work to reduce residential segregation and push for higher housing density across the city. He also pledged to address downtown safety and argued that a police officer’s failure to turn on a body camera should be presumed misconduct.
Frey finished first after votes were tallied, with Dehn in second, followed by Hodges, Hoch and Levy-Pounds. The mayor-elect earned the most support in voter-rich parts of south Minneapolis, especially the 13th Ward, and performed well downtown and in Northeast.
“I recently spoke to Jacob Frey and congratulated him on his victory,” Hodges said in a statement Wednesday. “I told him that I know he loves Minneapolis and that I am committed to a smooth transition.”
During the race, Frey sought to highlight his energy, hard work and accessibility. He gave out his cellphone number and jumped on bars to speak at his campaign launch and a celebration on Tuesday night. He will be the city’s second Jewish mayor, and its second-youngest — behind only Al Hofstede, who was 34 when he was elected mayor in the 1970s.
When Frey takes office in January, he must do business with a reshaped City Council. The 13-member body has been fractious and will shift to the left with five new council members.
“Regardless of disagreements that will inevitably come, we can start treating each other a little bit better,” Frey said at a hastily called news conference. “We don’t need to be this city where we’re viciously attacking one another all the time.”
Steve Cramer, president of the Downtown Council, which devoted its energy to influencing council races, said downtown businesses would have been OK with a Frey, Hodges or Hoch victory.
“All were seen as folks that we could have a working relationship with, and that is certainly true of Mayor-elect Frey,” Cramer said. “He is a known entity, lots of pluses, some challenges that people have had, but it’s a new chapter for him and a new role.”
In a city election with the highest voter turnout since at least 1993, Frey raised the most money of any candidate, built a strong campaign and personally knocked on thousands of doors. He received more first-choice and more second-choice votes than any candidate.
He got a modest bump when Levy-Pounds’ votes were reallocated in the third round of ranked-choice tabulation, and added nearly 10,000 votes to his total when Hoch was dropped in the fourth round.
Hodges cites legacy
Hodges, who finished in third, said in her statement Wednesday she has helped create lasting change in the city — such as a foundation for substantive police reform, a $15 minimum wage and neighborhood composting.
“Serving as mayor of Minneapolis is the greatest honor of my life,” she said. “Thank you, my beloved Minneapolis, from the bottom of my heart.”
State Sen. Jeff Hayden, a DFLer representing part of south and central Minneapolis, said Hodges was elected with the help of voters interested in social justice, but lost support over her handling of the protests sparked by the police shooting of Jamar Clark, specifically her order to take down protesters’ encampment in the middle of the night.
“Those folks felt absolutely, 100 percent betrayed,” Hayden said.
Hayden said the mayor also lost favor with members of the business community downtown and along south Minneapolis’ Lake Street, who felt she didn’t do enough to tackle rising crime.
Hodges accomplished a lot as mayor, said Dan McGrath, the director of progressive advocacy group TakeAction Minnesota, and she elevated the question of racial equity in Minneapolis politics, but she struggled to translate policy success into a “captivating vision” for voters. And she was the target throughout the campaign.
“For Betsy, what we saw in this race was challenges from the left and challenges from the right,” McGrath said. “She was pinched between the two.”
McGrath said Frey found a way during the campaign to hold together “disparate constituencies,” such as downtown business and people in neighborhoods, while projecting a persona that’s palatable to some progressives. But holding that coalition together will be more difficult in office, as Hodges well knows, McGrath said.
“How does he now govern with those disparate constituencies expecting different things?” McGrath said.
Dehn, who finished second in ranked-choice voting, said Wednesday he was proud his campaign did so well with fraction of the money his opponents raised.
“It shows that these elections aren’t just about money, they’re about message, they’re about energizing people, and they’re about putting people at the center of the work we do,” he said.
Dehn said he hopes his campaign will encourage others to run for office, and he predicted his supporters will continue to exert pressure at City Hall.
“The people engaged in my campaign and other campaigns will work hard to keep Jacob accountable to the people,” Dehn said.
Hoch, who finished fourth, said in a statement that “the voters have spoken” and he has offered Frey his congratulations.
“I’ve also pledged to do all I can to help him be successful. We all want that, I know,” Hoch said. “You can count on me — and Jacob can count on me — to do my part.”
Levy-Pounds could not be reached for comment, but said simply on Facebook: “Friends, Jacob Frey has been announced as the new Mayor-elect of our beloved Minneapolis.”