The Minneapolis DFL failed to endorse a candidate for mayor at its convention on Saturday, but state Rep. Raymond Dehn came in a surprising first place among a crowded field of candidates, earning nearly a third of the party’s support and beating out Mayor Betsy Hodges and Council Member Jacob Frey.
More than 1,200 delegates endured 11 hours of procedural wrangling at the Convention Center before the results of the first ballot for a mayoral endorsement were announced. Dehn won 32.4 percent of delegates, Frey won 27.8 percent, Hodges won 24.2 percent and Tom Hoch won 10.6 percent.
“Back in January, no one gave my campaign this kind of chance. I think it’s pretty significant that we had a 5 point margin after the first ballot,” said Dehn. “People in Minneapolis are looking for a new kind of leadership.”
Dehn, a little-known state legislator from north Minneapolis running on a shoestring campaign budget, made a good showing in the April 4 precinct caucuses and has ridden a wave of youthful left-wing activism that also vaulted several newcomers to endorsements for the Park Board.
The Minneapolis DFL hasn’t been able to endorse a candidate in a closely contested mayoral election since 1979, but the convention was expected to help bring a crowded field into focus, and it revealed the race is wide open.
Hodges faced endorsement challenges from six candidates, including Dehn, Frey, former Hennepin Theatre Trust leader Hoch, filmmaker Aswar Rahman, community activist Al Flowers and Captain Jack Sparrow.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, a lawyer and civil rights activist also running for mayor, is not seeking the DFL endorsement.
Rahman, Flowers and Sparrow were dropped from consideration after the first ballot because they didn’t get 10 percent of support, and the convention was adjourned without an endorsement just before 10 p.m., since none of the candidates was anywhere near the 60 percent required.
Frey said the results showed him that voters want to replace Hodges.
“It’s remarkable that 76 percent of the DFL looked for a new direction and the incumbent mayor finished in third place,” he said. “We’re feeling very good. We produced a broad coalition, and we’re lined up well for the general.”
Hodges said no one was surprised at the lack of endorsement for mayor.
“This is a difficult and complicated process that doesn’t appeal to everyone,” she said late Saturday night. “I’m grateful to have an opportunity to keep talking to the voters of Minneapolis about what I’m doing.”
Hoch said he was pleased with his showing. “I got in the race late, a lot of people had committed to other candidates, so I’m really happy,” he said, adding that he expects to do much better in the general election. “This is a very small group of people that may not be entirely representative of the broader electorate of the city.”
The lengthy convention wore delegates down, with scheduled prayer breaks and protracted debates over details such as the language in a resolution about pesticides and whether to exclude a delegate, who was not in the room anyway, over comments he’d made that indicated he may have been a closet Republican.
The gathering didn’t vote to approve the rules and agenda for the convention until 1 p.m., candidates for mayor weren’t nominated until 4:30 p.m., and the results of the first ballot weren’t announced until 9 p.m.
It was a first convention for Antoinette Newsome.
She wanted to get more involved in politics, she said, but wished there was more education about how the process works.
By about 4:30 p.m., she’d had time to leave for an appointment and come back before speeches by mayoral candidates had begun. Newsome said she doesn’t mind when things run late, but a few hours late?
“They’re a little off track for me,” she said.
Across the auditorium, Janet Day Midtbo and Mary McKelvey, who had both attended previous conventions, were brainstorming ways the day might run more smoothly.
They wondered if technology might help — if credentials could be e-mailed to delegates in advance, or if they could vote electronically, rather than on paper ballots — but acknowledged that would be expensive.
“Democracy is messy,” Midtbo said. And, on Saturday, it was slow.