Tevlin: Ranked choice, but no rancor, in Minneapolis mayor's race

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 7, 2013 - 12:21 AM
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Minneapolis mayoral candidates Mark Andrew, left, Betsy Hodges, Gary Schiff, Jackie Cherryhomes and Don Samuels took part in a debate Wednesday in a packed auditorium at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Photo: JERRY HOLT • jholt@startribune.com ,

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On a cold spring night the Volvos and Subarus created somewhat of a traffic jam in south Minneapolis as residents scrambled inside a quaint church to listen to the seven people vying to run the city.

Hundreds of the civic-minded jammed into Solomon’s Porch and plopped onto shabby chic furniture. Excuse me. Pardon. Is this seat taken?

Grandmothers moved through the crowd, passing out oatmeal cookies and sage advice. OK, I made that last part up. But you couldn’t have concocted a more Minnesotan mise-en-scène if you tried.

It was made only more so by the new ranked-choice voting system, which eliminated the mayoral primary but allows voters to choose up to five candidates, in order of preference. It’s unlikely any of the candidates will get 50 percent of the vote in the first ballot counting, so getting voters’ second or third choice will be crucial.

A candidate no longer has to be first, but being above average will pay.

Ranked choice, and the torpid format of the debates, has created a unique and somewhat soulless process that discourages rancor and negative campaigning, lest the candidate come off too mouthy or brash to make the top three.

In many ways, that’s a good thing. I’ve long been a critic of the hostile campaigns that distort records and confuse voters.

At times, however, the debate seemed like a regional episode of the game show “Family Feud”; the only thing missing was Louie Anderson as host:

“Give me three reasons you want to be mayor,” he’d intone.

Jackie Cherryhomes: “I truly love and am committed to this city.”

Ding.

Cam Winton: “I am running because I love our city.”

Ding.

Betsy Hodges: “This can be the greatest city of the 21st century.”

Ding.

One member of the audience remarked that “they all sound like R.T. [Rybak].”

Jeff Spartz, a longtime DFLer, doesn’t live in Minneapolis so won’t vote, but he supports former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew. He watched the Tuesday debate.

“With ranked choice, they all know the last thing they want to do is shoot themselves in the foot” with negative comments, said Spartz. “They all want to look well-rounded and sensible.”

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