Reimnitz win caps improbable Minneapolis school board election

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2012 - 8:32 PM

In Minneapolis, Josh Reimnitz, 26, defeated Patty Wycoff.

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Josh Reimnitz

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Josh Reimnitz, who is 26 years old, has lived in Minneapolis for two years, has no kids in school and moved into his district weeks before filing, won an improbable victory for a Minneapolis school board seat in final tallies released Friday.

Reimnitz won all three of the precincts where defectively printed ballots were counted by hand, posting 51 percent of the overall vote.

He got 729 votes more than Patty Wycoff, who has lived in her Bryn Mawr house for 17 years, spent hundreds of hours as a school volunteer, worked for the Bryn Mawr neighborhood and has two children in school.

"I feel humbled," Reimnitz said Friday. "This has been a hard-fought campaign and I'm really excited to work to represent our district and our entire school district."

The Reimnitz upset capped a race for school District 4 that was packed with surprises from start to finish.

Reimnitz won with a tidal wave of spending that set a record for a Minneapolis board race. Some came from friends but, even more important, from people he'd never met who are pushing a school-reform agenda. He recounted one high school friend from North Dakota who called her aunt to vote for Reimnitz.

With the election of unopposed Tracine Asberry in southwest Minneapolis, the Reimnitz win means four members of the nine-member board are willing to buck the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers on contract issues.

"I really believed from the beginning that I had a shot at winning," Reimnitz said. "It came down to networks of people and their networks. I stood for a lot of things that people wanted."

The race took multiple unusual turns. Darrell Washington, then a city employee, won union and DFL endorsement, but was forced to drop out when told by the city that federal funding restrictions barred him from partisan politics. That came one day before filings closed, leaving Reimnitz the only declared candidate until Wycoff jumped in at the urging of people such as former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Wycoff said the idea of running wasn't entirely new because she'd been encouraged to do so over the past five years.

But by the time Wycoff entered, Reimnitz had an influential ally for a Minneapolis race, Mayor R.T. Rybak. Rybak's endorsement was important in a race where many voters didn't know the candidates personally.

The primary election seemed to confirm all of the advantages of residency and activism that Wycoff brought to the race. She piled up 60 percent of the vote. But the 1,775 activists who voted in the primary were swamped by a different crowd of more than 23,000 general election voters, who gave Reimnitz a 51-48 edge.

They were persuaded by the message he circulated by raising more than $37,000 for the campaign, and by a so-far unreported level of spending by an outside New York-based education reform political action committee. The heavy spending came partly through Reimnitz's connections as a Teach for America instructor in Atlanta schools for two years.

"Had I known I was up against so much money, I might have done things differently," said Wycoff, who said she urged people to give to the campaign against the state marriage amendment rather than her campaign, which reported raising just over $5,000.

"I've finally done laundry and I cooked dinner last night, and I'm glad to get back to my normal, simple life," she said.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438 Twitter: @brandtstrib

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