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Democratic organizer to lead Hodges reelection bid

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has put her reelection bid in the hands of campaign manager Jorge Contreras, a Democratic organizer who got his start during Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Hodges announced in a press release Monday that Contreras would lead her 2017 campaign, two weeks after announcing her intent to run at a south Minneapolis event attended by about 40 supporters.

“Jorge Contreras is the right person to lead my campaign. He is a determined, battle-tested leader with a solid track record of success and a solid commitment to progressive values," Hodges said in the release. "I look forward to working with him to build a winning grassroots campaign in every corner of our city.”

Contreras has worked on nine campaigns in ten states, including Sen. Al Franken's 2014 reelection campaign. Most recently, he worked as field director for Angie Craig's unsuccessful 2016 congressional bid against Republican Jason Lewis.

Hodges, who was first elected mayor in 2013, already faces competition for the seat. Civil rights activist Nekima Levy-Pounds announced her candidacy in November, and State Rep. Raymond Dehn announced in late December. 

Minneapolis Council Member Jacob Frey is also expected to challenge Hodges, and is scheduled to make an announcement Jan. 3.

Police: Latest homicide led to shootings

A Minneapolis police evidence technician worked the scene of a shooting on Logan Avenue in May 2016. (AARON LAVINSKY/STAR TRIBUNE)

Minneapolis police said they have linked two weekend shootings, which left residents frightened and sent some diving to the floor to avoid stray bullets, to an early-morning homicide on the city's North Side last week.

All three incidents are believed to be part of a bloody gang conflict that has wracked north Minneapolis for months.

The most recent attack — thought to be tied to the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Anthony Stubbs in the early morning hours of Friday — occurred about 2:34 p.m. when rival gang members exchanged fire in the middle of the 4300 block of N. Humboldt Avenue, police said. No one was injured in that shooting, but several homes were struck by gunshots, Fourth Precinct inspector Mike Kjos said Wednesday.

He said that detectives have issued a probable cause pickup for a suspect, whom they believe may information about Stubbs' death.

The incident was preceded by another shooting on the same block, at about 10:38 p.m. Saturday, which police said they believe was also connected.

No one was injured in that incident either, but the shootings prompted city and police officials to hold a hastily-organized community meeting on Wednesday night at the Webber Community Center.

Kjos sought to reassure skittish residents at the meeting by saying that the department had authorized overtime pay for officers to spend more time in the area to help stave off further violence.

He said that residents can actively oppose crime by organizing block clubs and calling 911 when they witness suspicious activity. But several residents complained that even when they called police, officers were often slow to show up.

Others described fearing for their lives when gunfire broke out on an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon.

Kjos said the violence likely stemmed from a raging gang war in north Minneapolis, in which “splinter groups” have aligned themselves to form two larger factions, the High End and Low End, their territory roughly divided by West Broadway Avenue.

"Gun violence between various street gangs in North Minneapolis has increased tremendously, this is mainly due to YouTube rap videos disrespecting the opposite gangs dead gang members or disrespecting high ranking members of the rival gang,” police wrote in recent court filings.

Minutes after the homicide on Friday, police arrested three men in a car that was seen fleeing the scene, one of whom was later released, "pending further investigation," police said. Police also said a gun was recovered from the car.

A department spokeswoman said last week the other two suspects — a St. Paul man, 23, and a Brooklyn Park man, 25 — were booked into Hennepin County Jail for violating probation for previous offenses. One of the men is a member of the Low End-affiliated street crew called the Black T Gang, or BTG, court records show.

Though police said the investigation is gaining momentum, no one has been charged so far in any of the shootings.