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The first major test of campaign strength came in July, with the DFL convention. Andrew led on every ballot but failed to secure the endorsement after Hodges’ supporters exited en masse, leaving the field wide open.
Then came nearly three dozen forums, where candidates sparred politely, mindful that they could be voters’ second or third choice. Education became a top issue, despite the mayor’s lack of control over the city’s independent school board. Other issues that grabbed attention were streetcars, neighborhood crime, residential density, public safety and population growth.
Outside of forums, candidates relied heavily on direct mail, flooding houses around the city. Independent groups were formed to raise and spend unlimited sums on the candidates’ behalf. Some campaigns and groups invested in cable television ads, which are cheaper and more targeted than network television.
The sole poll in the race, commissioned in September by the Star Tribune, showed Samuels and Cohen tied for first place at 16 percent apiece. Another 16 percent said they were undecided.
Andrew raised the most money — $420,000 — and collected the most high-profile endorsements. Unions and others gave another $136,000 to an independent group supporting him. Hodges, who raised $285,000 and lent her campaign $21,000, accused Andrew late in the race of trying to “buy his way into the mayor’s office.” An independent group supporting Hodges raised $38,000.
Candidates were hard-pressed at times to distinguish themselves in a field where agendas were often similar. Hodges, the council’s budget chair, highlighted her work on pension reform as a prime example of her fiscal stewardship and often noted her work with Rybak. Andrew frequently cited his efforts developing the Midtown Greenway, a popular bicycle and pedestrian corridor through south Minneapolis, and said he would make Minneapolis the “greenest city” in the country. Known for impassioned speeches and vigils for North Side murder victims, Samuels said he would be the “education mayor.”
Some hoped for a Rybak endorsement, but it never came. Instead, Rybak offered some kind words for Hodges and Samuels — a close ally on the council. Three Rybak staffers volunteered for Hodges’ campaign. Hodges did, however, get the endorsement of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who, after securing his own win Tuesday night, congratulated Hodges as “the mayor apparent.”
Frustration and hope
Throughout the day, confronted with a two-page ballot the size of a legal pad and filled with names, some voters expressed frustration with the sheer number of candidates but seemed largely to understand the ranked-choice process.
“You had to think about it ahead of time,” voter David Bach said. “You had to really sit down and say OK, I have more than one choice this time. I can prioritize people.”
Naima Richmond made her picks but said she was more concerned with what would happen after Election Day. Richmond said she’d heard a lot of promises during campaign.
“I hope whoever is the winner will not only say it, but do it,” she said.
Staff writers Vineeta Sawkar, Abby Simons, Kelly Smith and Steve Brandt contributed to this report.
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper