Minneapolis candidates race to raise money to pay down debt

  • Article by: MAYA RAO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 1, 2014 - 8:15 AM

Minneapolis Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges and other candidates tried to pull in year-end contributions before tighter limits arrive in 2014.

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Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges attended a fundraiser Tuesday to help retire her campaign debt before the end of the year. By early evening, she was close to her goal.

Photo: Renée Jones Schneider • reneejones@startribune.com,

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Seven hours before the new year, many people were taking off work, kicking back and figuring out which party to attend. But Minneapolis Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges was in campaign business mode, climbing the snowy steps of a home on Lake of the Isles for a fundraiser to bring in as much in political contributions as she could before tighter limits kick in for 2014.

Candidates for office have raced to raise campaign cash before New Year’s Day so that they can more easily pay down their campaign debt. While a Minneapolis mayoral contender could accept contributions of up to $500 during the 2013 election year, the ceiling drops to $300 in 2014, a nonelection year. For City Council candidates, those limits fall from $300 to $100.

“THIS WEDNESDAY — New Year’s Day — it will become a lot harder to retire our campaign debt,” Hodges wrote in a Monday e-mail to supporters. “We absolutely need to hit our $5,000 goal by [Dec. 31] at midnight.”

She acknowledged at Tuesday’s event that the fundraising was down to the wire, but said that it had to be done.

She was second to mayoral runner-up Mark Andrew in contributions raised. She owed $40,176 to vendors as of her last campaign filing in late October, and also lent herself $21,500.

Hodges’ New Year’s Eve fundraiser took place at the home of Dawn and Mike Erlandson of the public affairs firm Aurora Strategic Advisors.

The nearly four dozen hosts of the event included past supporters of Andrew, such as former Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and former state Rep. Marion Greene, who served as Andrew’s campaign communications director.

Also among the hosts were U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, and former U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo.

“We’re at the point now where Betsy is going to be the mayor, so I want to support the mayor. … What people do is they come behind the person who’s won and the time is now to do that,” Anderson Kelliher said at the fundraiser, adding that she gave nearly the maximum allowed to Hodges.

The drive to raise money has trickled down to the 13-member City Council, where seven new members were elected in November.

Last week, Council Member-elect Jacob Frey e-mailed supporters saying that he was excited to represent the Third Ward, “but before then, our campaign is working hard to close the books in 2013.” He announced a fundraising goal of $2,500 before midnight Tuesday.

“People that didn’t think we were going to win are now giving,” said Frey, a political novice who defeated incumbent Diane Hofstede in the ward spanning Northeast and the North Loop.

Another Council Member-elect, Blong Yang, had nearly $17,500 in outstanding loans to himself as of his last campaign filing in late October. He said that he wrote his final checks to others for campaign expenses Tuesday and that he will be the last person paid.

Yang held a fundraiser at Elsie’s restaurant and bowling alley in December that brought in about $5,000, but he acknowledged it was “tough” raising money in the narrow window between the Nov. 5 election and Jan. 1.

“We’ve been scrambling against time and scrambling against the holidays,” said Yang, who will represent the Fifth Ward in north Minneapolis. “We’re probably not going to reach our goals.”

At Hodges’ fundraiser, Mike Erlandson said that it was never easy. When it comes to raising money, he said, “The end of the year doesn’t make much difference. You just have to keep at it.”

And Hodges was keeping at it: Just past 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, she sent another e-mail, telling supporters she was $750 short of her fundraising goal.

“With your support tonight,” she wrote, “we’ll be in good shape ahead of our midnight deadline.”

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