Surprised by Minneapolis Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges’ 17.5-percent margin of ranked-choice victory over second-place finisher Mark Andrew last Tuesday? You weren’t alone. As astute an observer of city politics as Mayor R.T. Rybak said Monday that he had not expected an outcome so decisive in the 35-candidate race to succeed him.
Hodges’ win came on the heels of a move Rybak said he questioned at the time — a mass mailing to voters in the campaign’s closing days emphasizing that she overcame resistance from public employees unions to rein in city pension obligations. It turned out to have been a winning stroke for the two-term City Council member.
The result is that Hodges has “an absolute total mandate to continue her philosophy of very progressive social issues and very tough fiscal conservatism,” the retiring DFLer said at a Humphrey School of Public Affairs forum.
That philosophy puts Hodges in sync with the thinking of a large share of Americans, at least as Rybak said he perceives it after several years of stumping the country as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. A governing majority of Americans “don’t want to get dragged into social issues, and they want government to run well,” Rybak said. By his lights, a well-run government is one that is neither wasteful nor neglectful of its responsibilities — and not given to periodic shutdowns because of partisan intransigence.
I’d say there’s a third component to Hodges’ mandate, one related to both sides of the philosophy Rybak cited. It’s to bring about greater economic equity among the city’s demographically diverse neighborhoods. Meeting that mandate will involve both progressive inclusivity and careful targeting of limited public resources for maximum return on investment.
Hodges’ campaign emphasis on early childhood education fits the bill. It ought to remain a prominent part of a mayoral strategy to raise living standards in lagging neighborhoods. With Rybak taking a leadership post come January at Generation Next, a new public-private partnership aimed at improving educational attainment, Hodges can expect ample advice about how best to make education a mayoral priority.