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Samuels, Hoch exploring bids for mayor

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Politics and government Updated: December 28, 2012 - 5:29 PM
Don Samuels with President Barack Obama at a campaign stop in June.

Don Samuels with President Barack Obama at a campaign stop in June.

Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels announced Friday that he's exploring a bid for mayor, swelling the field of candidates to succeed Mayor. R.T. Rybak.

Theater executive Tom Hoch also said that he's considering entering the race.

Samuels made his announcement from his native Jamaica where he's vacationing. His statement added that former Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan will chair his exploratory committee. Samuels has been politically close to Rybak and is a reliable vote for the mayor's proposals, including the new Vikings stadium.

The Jordan neighborhood resident most recently ran for Hennepin County commissioner, but in July dropped out of a crowded race in which he had been expected to be a top contender.

Samuels said at the time that he was backing out to support his wife, Sondra, who is the chief executive of the Northside Achievement Zone, a federally funded effort to improve the lives of children and families.

He cited the increased time demands on the family imposed by his wife's job, which makes the decision to explore running for mayor somewhat puzzling. Samuels hasn't responded to a Star Tribune inquiry.

Tom Hoch

Tom Hoch

Samuels has been a council member for 10 years, chairing the committee dealing with policing. firefighting, civil rights, and formerly rental property and other regulatory matters. He won a special election in the Third Ward, with Rybak's help, then knocked off incumbent Natalie Johnson Lee when he was thrown into her Fifth Ward by redistricting.

An often-spellbinding speaker, Samuels has also drawn criticism for a lack of follow-through on such mundane matters as returning calls to constituents.

The ordained Baptist minister has cultivated a following outside of the North Side, speaking at venues across the city. He's been politically close to lame-duck mayor  Rybak, who announced his mayoral retirement on Thursday. He drew controversy when he hyperbolically suggested several years ago that North High School be burned down due to its poor academic outcomes. 

Dolan just retired as police chief after leading a reduction in the city's crime rate.  The Edina resident was unpopular among some black community members over policing issues but Samuels stood by him as chief. 

Hoch is president and chief exectuive of Hennepin Theatre Trust, a nonprofit company that owns and programs four downtown venues. 

"People have started calling me and caused me to start thinking about it," Hoch said Friday from Austin, Tex., where he is vacationing. "I'm anxious to hear what people think, what they want in a candidate."

Hoch once was a city elementary teacher, who earned a law degree at Hamline and oversaw the renovation of the State and Orpheum theaters by the city.  Then he shifted to the No. 2 position  at the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, when it was spun off as an independent agency.  There he oversaw an extensive rehab program and helped to negotiate the Hollman public housing desegregation settlement.

He left the city in 1996 for theater management. He lives in Lowry Hill neighborhood and has headed neighborhood associations in downtown and St. Anthony East. He now chairs the Downtown Improvement District, which assesses property owners for livability improvements.

"The big question for me right now is if this is something I want to do. And if I do, how do I make that happen?" he said.

Meanwhile, Brett Buckner has filed to run for council in the Fith Ward.     

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