Political powerhouses Sam and Sylvia Kaplan helped bankroll Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak’s rise to office a dozen years ago. Now returning from abroad, with Rybak leaving office by the end of the year, the couple is raising money anew for the man they want to succeed him: Mark Andrew.
Hundreds of people streamed into their riverfront home this week to donate to Andrew at the Kaplan’s first fundraiser since coming back from Morocco, where Sam Kaplan was appointed as ambassador in 2009.
“You are a raucous crowd – this kind of conduct is not permitted in Morocco,” he joked, before lamenting that the country didn’t have political fundraisers.
Attendees said the support of the Kaplans offers Andrew, a former longtime Hennepin County commissioner, not just an edge in raising campaign cash but also a stamp of legitimacy. The couple have been prominent fundraisers for many progressive causes in Minnesota, and proudly noted during their bash that they were early backers of President Obama and the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone.
“It means everything,” said attorney Brian Rice, who was at the event.
He said he sat down with Andrew in January to list the top 10 influential people in Minneapolis whose support they’d need – and the Kaplans ranked number one.
The contest to replace Rybak is crowded, with no clear frontrunner yet. The other leading candidates seeking the DFL endorsement at Saturday’s convention are City Council Members Betsy Hodges, Gary Schiff, Don Samuels, and former city Council President Jackie Cherryhomes. Republican Cam Winton is running as an independent.
In a speech, Sam Kaplan ticked off Andrew’s likability and willingness to work hard and multitask as reasons for his support.
Organizers couldn’t say how much money was raised at the Kaplan’s home, where a medley of businessmen, former and current politicians, doctors, and lawyers put in an appearance.
Among the other attendees were former Secretary of State Joan Growe, Gov. Dayton’s chief of staff Tina Smith, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, former county commissioner John Derus, former state Rep. Willie Dominguez, former DFL Congressional candidate Jim Graves, school board members Richard Mammen and Alberto Monserrate, city park board commissioner Anita Tabb, University of Minnesota Regent Richard Beeson, and Roger Hale, who formerly chaired the board of the Walker Art Center.
Raising money is a challenge for everyone, given the $500 contribution limits. Andrew estimated that he and the other campaigns would have a budget of a half-million dollars.
Still, there’s no one person you can go to for money in a local race, said Mammen at the event, quipping: “This isn’t Chicago.”