The dust settled on the Minneapolis City Council elections Wednesday, and progressives stood tall.

Here are key takeaways:

Progressives won the majority

Having captured seven seats on the Minneapolis City Council, progressives will take the majority from the moderates aligned with Mayor Jacob Frey. But they fell short of a veto-proof nine seats.

On Wednesday, Council President Andrea Jenkins in the Eighth Ward, newcomer Katie Cashman in the Seventh Ward and Council Member Jamal Osman in the Sixth Ward emerged victorious following additional rounds of tabulation under ranked-choice voting.

Jenkins beat challenger Soren Stevenson by 38 votes — a margin so narrow that Stevenson can request a publicly funded recount.

By then, voters already knew who would make up the rest of the council, according to the unofficial results Tuesday: Elliott Payne (First Ward), Robin Wonsley (Second Ward), Michael Rainville (Third Ward), LaTrisha Vetaw (Fourth Ward), Jeremiah Ellison (Fifth Ward), Jason Chavez (Ninth Ward), Aisha Chughtai (10th Ward), Emily Koski (11th Ward), Aurin Chowdhury (12th Ward) and Linea Palmisano (13th Ward).

Turnout was low. There were 46% fewer ballots cast than the last municipal election in 2021, when the mayor, council and questions about government structure, policing and rent control crowded the ballot. Yet political action committees spent big money in hopes of influencing the City Council's makeup, according to campaign finance reports.

All of Mpls, a PAC that buoyed Mayor Jacob Frey in 2021, spent nearly $502,000 through October to help re-elect moderate Council Members Jenkins, Vetaw, Rainville, Koski and Palmisano. But the three new candidates on its slate — Scott Graham, Luther Ranheim and Bruce Dachis — all lost.

Mpls for the Many, a PAC created this year to help progressive candidates, spent about $112,000 through October in its successful bid to flip the Council's balance of power. Its candidates, Council Members Ellison and Chughtai as well as newcomers Chowdhury and Cashman, were elected, while Stevenson came close to unseating the council president.

On Wednesday, Frey pushed back on the idea that he now might face a council hostile to his agenda.

"Things aren't that simple," he said, emphasizing that Jenkins and Palmisano — "my most important partners in City Hall" — were re-elected. He said he recently spoke with Cashman and concluded that they agree on several issues related to urban planning.

"My hope is one of optimism," he said. "But that won't stop me from vetoing something I don't think is right."

How big an issue will police spending become?

The new progressive majority is a welcome result for those who felt the City Council was a rubber stamp to a Frey administration not pushing police reforms fast enough.

But it's not clear that the new majority will be antagonistic toward police. Chowdhury, for example, has moderated her views from several years ago when she called for their abolition.

The council's power over policing is limited; in Minneapolis, the mayor has authority over the police department. But the council has the power of the purse, and the next council will have opportunities to push back on Frey's spending priorities for public safety.

Among the potential issues:

  • Police staffing levels are at historic lows, following an exodus amid a tight labor market. Frey and the council will have to figure out how much to spend to attract new cops.
  • The city and Minneapolis Police Federation are in contract negotiations, with the union arguing officers need raises to retain current officers and recruit new ones.
  • Is Frey, in the council's view, spending enough on alternatives to traditional policing? The city's annual budget requires council approval.

Rent control gains support, or does it?

The incoming progressive majority is a boost to rent control supporters – but only to a degree.

The strictest rent control policy favored by the most-progressive members doesn't have a clear path to making it before voters in 2025.

In 2021, Minneapolis voters gave the City Council the power to craft a policy to put before voters, and advocates hoped for one that would cap annual rent hikes at 3% with almost no exceptions – a regulation that would be among the nation's most restrictive plans.

Johnson and Goodman opposed the plan and played a role in ensuring it didn't appear on this year's ballot. But what about their replacements?

Chowdhury is a rent control supporter. But in a Star-Tribune questionnaire, she said, "I haven't committed to a percentage yet," and said she was open to exceptions for new housing.

Cashman is even more moderate. She told the Star Tribune she opposed the 3% cap and offered a path to making housing more affordable that focused on the housing supply – a philosophy espoused by Frey and several of his allies.

Homeless encampment compromise possible?

Homeless encampments occupied by people with complex mental health needs have proliferated in Minneapolis over the past five years, driving a wedge between council members endorsing Frey's response and those who say too much money has been spent merely moving homeless people around.

Voters repudiated candidates, like the 10th Ward's Dachis, who proposed jailing encampment occupants who are actively addicted to drugs and decline sober shelter.

Council members who tried to place a moratorium on encampment clearings in their last term may aim to compromise now — Chavez said a humane response to homelessness must include harm reduction, basic sanitation and "a place to go" for those displaced from camps.

Winning in the later rounds

Here are the results for the three races that concluded Wednesday:

Sixth Ward: Osman was declared the unofficial winner Wednesday after two rounds of tabulation, beating second-place candidate Kayseh Magan, a former fraud investigator in the Attorney General's office.

Seventh Ward: Cashman, a renter and project manager at the Minnesota Center of Environmental Advocacy, eked out a victory over and real estate agent Scott Graham in the race for the seat being vacated by longtime Council Member Lisa Goodman after the second round of tabulation.

Eighth Ward: Jenkins narrowly won re-election by 38 votes Wednesday after trailing Stevenson in first-choice votes by 103.