Good Lord, the next election cycle has begun, this time for mayor.
Thus far, Minneapolis residents have a choice of whether they will be led from the lectern, or with a bullhorn. It will get much, much more complicated.
Nekima Levy-Pounds officially announced her intention to run for mayor of Minneapolis Tuesday, a move that seemed inevitable when she resigned from her teaching position at the St. Thomas School of Law and as the head of the Minneapolis NAACP.
It was fitting that Levy-Pounds made the announcement in front of the Fourth Precinct station, where she was a forceful presence during the occupation following the shooting death of Jamar Clark.
Mayor Betsy Hodges already has said she would run again, but if she were to choose a matching mise-en-scène to announce, she might have chosen the bunker-gymnasium a few blocks away where she conducted her news conferences during that time.
The optics of the two opponents are stark. Hodges is the unobtrusive wonk, prone to policy tomes adorned with poetry or motivational quotes. Levy-Pounds is the eloquent and charismatic leader who can turn on her avid followers with a tweet, and turn off everybody else with a reckless or confrontational quip. Ideologically, however, they occupy a space not that far apart on the political continuum.
In the time of Trump, it’s the far left vs. the farther left.
Tuesday, surrounded by supporters, Levy-Pounds said about what you’d expect, that she wants to pull everybody together. I wish her my sincere good luck.
I spoke with several people close to the ground in Minneapolis politics about what Levy-Pounds brings to the race, and they had more questions than answers. All were cautious because the Trump victory proved that we all live in our own bubbles now, often oblivious to those who are not like us. Could Levy-Pounds be seen as the antidote to the fever that pushed Trump voters to the polls? Are there enough angry lefties in the core city who view her as an answer? Or is the far left, the protesters and advocacy groups, in its own protective bubble, unaware of a large segment of the city that is happy with its direction and distrustful of those who occupied the precinct?
Most are skeptical that a largely one-issue candidate can become mayor across a wide swath of the city, particularly in areas that turn out the most voters. With ranked choice and more candidates, however, the possibilities are mind-boggling. One political insider wondered whether Levy-Pounds’ candidacy might make progressives who are not particularly fervent about Hodges take another look at her as a potentially palatable, and much safer, choice.
Some insiders, both those who favor Hodges and those who don’t, saw her as a potential one-term pony simply because she followed R.T. Rybak. Even Chris Rock doesn’t want to follow Dave Chappelle.
At least two other viable candidates are widely thought to be ready to run. Jacob Frey, a first-term City Council member, has recently made some unpopular votes, making sure to mention he is “showing leadership” by doing so. Developers and downtown business types like him, and he’s got the patter and swagger of the city’s most popular mayor, Rybak.
The money people also favor a likely candidate, Tom Hoch, president of the Hennepin Theatre Trust. A profile of him earlier this year was titled “The Mayor of Hennepin Avenue,” and people who know him say he wants to expand his city’s limits. The words “brilliant and visionary” seem to be mandatory when his friends talk about Hoch, but some wondered whether he could win with low name recognition. Hoch is a proponent of something that seems very Minneapolitan: “creative place-making,” using the arts to drive urban renewal.
Hoch also is very concerned about downtown crime, which will appeal to those who live there and to the “creative class,” but it will put him on the flip side of Levy-Pounds.
One longtime city politician believes a Levy-Pounds candidacy helps Frey and Hoch, with a caveat: The last “inspirational non-insider” to defy the odds and become mayor was a guy by the name of Rybak.
Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin