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He said most candidates will not engage in negative campaigns about their opponents because while they may pry some votes loose from their target, those votes may not necessarily go the way they want. They could just as well go to one of the many other candidates.
“That’s one of the reasons — the very practical reason — why you’re not getting the kind of sharp distinctions between candidates that you would get in an ordinary two-person campaign,” Cohen said.
Cherryhomes framed it differently, telling one audience last week that the candidates were running for the city — not against one another.
Stephanie Woodruff, a businesswoman and a member of the city’s audit committee, has pursued a similar approach. An opponent of the stadium and of a proposal to bring streetcars to Minneapolis, she touts her motto of “people over projects” at campaign events. But she generally does not tell audiences which of her rivals have supported those deals (Hodges and Samuels voted for streetcars this fall).
Woodruff took more veiled digs at a forum of American Indians last week when she said that Minneapolis doesn’t need to be the greenest city in America, a top tenet of Andrew’s platform. She did not name him.
“It’s like a secret code the candidates are using,” said Larry Jacobs, a political-science professor at the University of Minnesota who has hosted mayoral campaign forums.
“I worry that the candidates are maybe overestimating the time and the patience of voters to really sort out these subtle distinctions,” he said. “Voters, for the most part, are just too busy with their everyday lives.”
Maya Rao • 612-673-4210