Betsy Hodges had a solid lead among first-choice Minneapolis voters for mayor Tuesday night. But the celebration within the Hodges camp was reportedly muted. Clearly, supporters of the Minneapolis City Council member understood one key feature of ranked choice voting (RCV): A first-choice leader won't necessarily prevail -- not unless a large share of the second-choice votes of people who chose losing candidates for first place break her way.
The question that's undoubtedly nagging her campaign strategists while they wait for RCV ballot sorting to proceed: Did Hodges do enough to ask for second-choice support?
Former Hennepin County commissioner Mark Andrew, who was in second place among first-choice votes, and his backers had to be engaged in similar second-guessing. Might more have been done to forge alliances with other candidates in the quest for second-place choices? Should groups of candidates have become a de facto team, as seven lesser-known candidates attempted to do?
This was the second Minneapolis election to employ RCV. But candidates often seemed unsure of how to respond to its limitations and opportunities. They understood that attacking their rivals could be self-defeating, but they struggled to deliver distinctive messages without going negative. Many were slow to openly seek second-choice support. With 35 candidates on the ballot, forging alliances with other candidates was an obvious option that few exercised.
If Hodges' lead is confirmed as a win on Wednesday when the RCV second-choice sorting is done, she and her team will be hailed as masters of the new system -- and in demand to show future candidates how it's done.