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Warsame election historic but not record-setting

Posted by: Steve Brandt under People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: January 31, 2014 - 3:05 PM

Now that Abdi Warsame is sworn in as the first Somali-American seated on the Minneapolis City Council, history has been made.

But that win is being stretched in a way that history doesn't support. You may have read this the claim in a commentary piece on this newspaper's opinion pages that Warsame notched more votes than any Sixth Ward candidate in city history.

Far from it.

Warsame recorded 3,090 first-choice votes on Election Day.

But from Earl Netwal's 3,151 votes in 1973 to the 5,248 that Edgar Buckley polled in 1947, a dozen Sixth Ward winners have topped Warsame's total by a combined 17 times.  In fact, in the year that Buckley won, he beat Richard Palmer, who got 3,139 votes. So Palmer topped Warsame's total and still lost.

All this data comes from Tony Hill, the political scientist and student of Mnneapolis politics and governance. "I am always amazed by the things people state without even doing a minimum of checking," Hill said after this reporter asked him for a fact-check.

Hill says the record for a council candidate is 13,571 amassed by J. Russell Sheffield in a 1928 special election, allowing him to succeed his late father in the Eighth Ward. For a general election, the record is 12,725 for W.H. Rendell in 1921 in the same ward.  But that was in the days before rigorous reapportionment of wards to reflect population changes.  The record for wards with equalized populations came in 1957 when Norman Stewart in the 13th Ward with 11.350.  

By the way, both Sheffield and Rendell were implicated in a bribery and extortion scandal that broke at City Hall in 1929. The indictment against Sheffield was later dropped after another council member, the chief witness against him, was critically injured in a car crash; Rendell's two trials ended in hung juries. The prosecutions by County Attorney Floyd B. Olson resulted in two convictions, two guilty pleas and one resignation. The also helped Olson win the governor's chair.

(Photo above: Floyd B. Olson)  

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