Donning sneakers and toting clipboards, mayoral candidates and their staffs are hitting the pavement across Minneapolis, making fervent pitches to voters ahead of Tuesday’s election.
With few other races attracting voters to the polls, turnout in the city’s first open mayoral race in a generation could be heavily dependent on each campaign’s get-out-the-vote operation. It’s also the city’s biggest test of ranked-choice voting, in which voters select three candidates in order of preference.
Anecdotally, reports indicate that many voters remain undecided, still parsing a muddled field of 35 candidates. Only eight candidates have structured campaigns, however.
“At least 50 percent of the people we talk to are undecided,” Jackie Cherryhomes said while knocking on doors at a north Minneapolis high-rise this week.
Juggling events as they try to make contact with as many voters as possible in these final days, the candidates are meeting with students, parents and voters who live in single-family homes and others who live in public high-rises.
Following is a look at how some of them have been spending time leading up to Election Day:
Mission, menu and motion
By noon on Saturday, Mark Andrew had fired up campaign volunteers at a labor rally in northeast Minneapolis, waded through a bustling coffee shop in Bryn Mawr to meet new voters and posed for a photo at a craft shop holding a leaf-shaped dish with streaks of green in homage to his environmental platform.
“I’m a leading candidate for mayor of Minneapolis and just want to say hi. … I want more bikeways and green space. … I’m campaigning to make this the greenest city in America,” he said above the din of coffee machines at Cuppa Java, moving from table to table.
As he bumped into people he already knew, campaign staffers jostled to ensure he stuck to the mission at hand: using every spare moment to win over new voters. At one point, spokeswoman Marion Greene seized his phone because he was texting old friends from high school who were flying in to help, a task a staffer could do.
After Andrew’s staff members finished in Bryn Mawr, they zipped him over in a green Prius to an Uptown deli, where he told one voter that there was a menu of 35 candidates and he was the blue-plate special.
Then it was off to campaign headquarters.
There, staffers were hunkered down on the phones, some leaning their elbows on the table, others kicking their legs up as borscht with beef bubbled on the stove.
He was hardly there long enough to give volunteers a pep talk when the Prius started up again to take him to the Midtown Greenway, where he began his sales pitch all over again.
Flooding a neighborhood
For supporters of Betsy Hodges, Saturday began at a south Minneapolis home with instructions for a morning get-out-the-vote event.
“This is why we’re going to win,” said Hodges, wearing tennis shoes and a Wonder Woman T-shirt under a blazer. “Because you guys showed up here on a beautiful Saturday morning in November three days before the election.”
Fortified with pastries and snacks from a kitchen table and armed with talking points about Hodges and a spreadsheet to contrast her with other candidates, volunteers were told to secure voters’ commitment of support and encourage them to vote.
“If you visualize what time you’re going to vote, you’re much more likely to do it,” one attendee said as lead organizer Maren Hokanson ran down instructions.
The event then broke up as volunteers scattered through the neighborhoods. Michael Guest, a veteran of several Minneapolis campaigns, and his wife, Kim Borton, headed to Sibley Park, using address lists to target specific houses.
“She’s really a tenacious fighter,” Guest told one man down the block. “And a really strong advocate for neighborhoods.”
After everyone dispersed, Hodges was off to another house where a similar crowd awaited instructions for another get-out-the-vote event.
(Nearly) one-hour knock-fest
The Art Love Manor in north Minneapolis was a big door-knocking target for Jackie Cherryhomes: 12 stories with 66 public-housing apartments. It was five days before the election. She had one hour.
Cherryhomes — wearing a pair of comfortable flat shoes and with her longtime ally Billy Binder — started at the top, rapping firmly on each door, rapping again on those where they heard a voice or a television.
If no one answered, they left a glossy flier folded in the door jamb and moved on. But if someone opened up, even a crack, Cherryhomes would introduce herself and ask to be the resident’s first choice.
As often as not, though, Cherryhomes and the resident would start comparing notes on family and community connections, sometimes hashing it out for two or three or even 10 minutes. More doors were waiting and time was running out, but in her view, it was time well spent.
“This is much more effective than being on the phone,” she said. “You never know, when you talk to someone, what connections you’re going to make. This can make all the difference.”
Walking from the building into a gray, chilly, late-campaign afternoon, she said she was “exhilarated” — and happy she hadn’t broken a sweat while meeting voters.
Time elapsed: 50 minutes.
Voters await — first the train
Don Samuels was coming from one of the high points of his day job as a City Council member: the grand opening of the North Side’s only adult gym.
But in politics, timing is everything, and this time Samuels was on the wrong side of the tracks for his next stop while a Soo Line train lumbered across Lyndale Avenue, blocking traffic as precious minutes ticked by.
By the time he arrived at Bright Water Montessori, a charter school on the city’s far northern edge, the cacophony of elementary kids getting out of school had died considerably, leaving Samuels few parents to buttonhole on this Thursday afternoon.
“You need a dentist,” he joshed parent Ben Lindwall, who was wearing Halloween makeup. Lindwall, who has met Samuels before, told him he’s first choice on his ballot.
So did Scottie Headington, but not until after she gave Samuels an earful on her opposition to anything that would lead toward the privatization of schools. “He’s concerned about the North Side,” she explained.
Next, Samuels riffed on a conversation with another voter, saying that children — like pretty girls and atomic particles — all act differently when someone is paying attention to them.
Never read Harry Potter?
You might think a political candidate could make no worse a blunder than to tell a classroom of sixth-graders that he’d do everything he could as mayor to make their school day longer.
“You have unredeemed yourself,” student Ian Mac- Kimm told Cam Winton bluntly after Winton confessed he wants a 10-hour school day.
But on this Halloween day, kids reacted with shrieks and gasps of disbelief to Winton’s other bombshell. “I’ve never read a Harry Potter book,” he confessed to student Marshall Murdoch Meyer, who had asked Winton’s favorite book. “Getting to Yes,” the 1981 bestselling primer on negotiating that Winton named, didn’t resonate with the kids.
But Winton redeemed himself with his movie choice: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
He told the kids at Upper Mississippi Academy, a charter school where a friend of his teaches, that running for mayor is interesting but not necessarily fun. He’s taking an unpaid leave from his job, doesn’t see his kids much and some people tell him that his stands on various issues are terrible.
But he’s following a dream and tells the students that they can, too. “If you work your tail off, take advice from good people, you can go as far as you want,” he told them. “I have no idea if I’m going to win. If I lose, that’s OK.”
He then headed home to take his toddlers out for Halloween candy — sans campaign brochures.