One of the earliest rumored candidates for mayor, Council Member Gary Schiff, made his campaign official Tuesday before a packed room of supporters at a brewery in South Minneapolis.
"I will be a voice for Minneapolis' forgotten," Schiff said. "For those who feel ignored."
The kickoff event was held at the Harriet Brewing tap room just off Lake Street in a nod to Schiff's work on an ordinance allowing brewers to sell jugs of their beer on site. Schiff used the opportunity to highlight other consumer-oriented issues he has championed, such as regulating pedicabs and forcing taxicabs to take credit cards.
"My goal has been to cut regulations that don't make sense, to make life easier for everyone," said Schiff, who represents neighborhoods surrounding the intersection of Lake Street and Hiawatha Ave. Several local business owners were in the crowd, as well as members of the firefighters union.
An 11-year member of the Council, Schiff said he wants new goals to encourage contractors on city projects to hire Minneapolis residents, as well as a comprehensive plan to tackling poverty.
Schiff's official entrance follows months of speculation that he would throw his hat in the ring. He is the second council member pursuing Mayor R.T. Rybak's soon-to-be-vacated seat, following Betsy Hodges, but will soon be one of three. Council Member Don Samuels will kickoff his campaign at an event on Wednesday night.
The 2013 election will be the city's biggest test yet of ranked choice voting, which eliminates a primary by allowing voters to list their second and third preferences on the ballot. Schiff said that will make the DFL endorsement much more important, while also changing the tenor of the race.
“I think the nature of instant runoff voting is going to reduce the negativity in this campaign," Schiff said. "And I think people are going to run on their vision and their ideas for the city.”
Schiff's campaign said Tuesday they raised $20,000 in the month of December. Campaigns must submit their first report to Hennepin County this Thursday.
The 40-year-old Schiff grew up in Youngstown, N.Y. and attended the University of Minnesota. Prior to his election to the Council, he worked as an activist with the Human Rights Campaign and Progressive Minnesota.
Schiff, who is gay, would be the city's first openly gay mayor if elected.
Photo credit: Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune