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“Labor is an integral part of the DFL Party — people forget that sometimes,” she said.
McConnell also said his role as city party chair doesn’t confer much political power: A supermajority, or 60 percent, of delegates must approve an endorsement, and he is forbidden from publicly supporting a candidate before then.
In such a heavily DFL town, the endorsement can carry a lot of weight. This year will be the city’s first competitive election using ranked-choice voting, in which there is no primary and citizens list their first, second and third choice candidates. But the influence of the party on city elections is not absolute. Mayor R.T. Rybak, elected in 2001, didn’t even win the endorsement until his campaign for a third term in 2009.
Among those seeking the DFL endorsement for mayor are Samuels, fellow Council Members Gary Schiff and Betsy Hodges, former City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes and former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew. Attorney Cam Winton is running as an independent.
Neither Schiff nor Hodges, who opposed the stadium, said they felt it would affect their chance for a DFL endorsement. Like Samuels, they praised McConnell’s professionalism.
Hodges, who sits on the special committee to implement the stadium deal, said now that the project is happening, she wants the conversation to be about how to ensure the best outcome for the city.
Schiff said attention will turn this year to finding a better financing plan for the stadium because gambling revenues intended to finance the state’s share have been coming up short so far.
Samuels, for his part, said he isn’t sure that his support of the stadium can overcome the long-term perception that he hasn’t been close with labor unions. “When I walk into a union screening, it’s like, ‘Yeah, we like you, but you’re not really concentrating on our issues,’ ” said Samuels, who didn’t win the Trade Council’s endorsement when he ran for Hennepin County commissioner last fall. “But the Vikings stadium, they really liked me for that.”
Maya Rao • 612-673-4210