It’s questionnaire season for candidates in Minneapolis as they jockey for endorsements, and amid the blizzard of paperwork they’ve gotten some head-scratching questions.
Our Revolution Twin Cities, a spinoff of the Bernie Sanders campaign, asked mayoral candidates, “Will you commit not to veto any City Council action supported by Our Revolution Twin Cities?” Most of them balked at agreeing to such a blanket pledge.
Then there was this question among the 15 sent to City Council and mayoral candidates by the group TakeAction Minnesota: “How would you co-govern with TakeAction Minnesota’s, and other progressive groups’, memberships?”
“It just struck me as completely inappropriate,” said City Council President Barb Johnson. “It’s like you need to ask their permission to make a decision.”
She didn’t fill out the questionnaire. But such are the choices faced by candidates as they are asked to put in writing a dizzying array of commitments. A typical candidate for mayor or City Council has already filled out at least 10 questionnaires — from unions, advocacy groups, and even a Twitter account, Wedge Live. And the election is still nearly six months away.
Lawrence Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota, said both the TakeAction and Our Revolution questions are examples of why Republicans and even some Democrats statewide are worried that the Twin Cities are moving out of the political mainstream.
“These two questions are an example of how far left the pool of Minneapolis mayoral candidates has moved,” Jacobs said. “I doubt there’s a major city in the country where we’re seeing this kind of push outside of New York and San Francisco.”
When a group asks candidates to pledge blanket support for its positions, it is asking them to abdicate their responsibility as elected officials, Jacobs said. “Ceding that power to an advocacy organization is just untenable,” Jacobs said.
On the Our Revolution question asking for a pledge not to veto an item the group supports, Mayor Betsy Hodges, Tom Hoch and Council Member Jacob Frey said no, arguing they couldn’t promise blanket support for any group’s initiatives. Nekima Levy-Pounds is not seeking Our Revolution’s endorsement.
State Rep. Ray Dehn, however, who has built momentum in his mayoral campaign partly with the help of Our Revolution, said yes.
“Our Revolution’s values follow Bernie’s values and Ray endorsed Bernie, and we don’t anticipate there would be proposals supported by Our Revolution that don’t align with our values,” said Joelle Stangler, Dehn’s campaign manager.
Were he running for City Council, Stangler said, Dehn probably would have answered differently, but he believes that by the time an Our Revolution-supported action reaches the mayor’s desk it will have been vetted by the council.
Kevin Chavis, the chairman of Our Revolution Twin Cities, said his organization is hopeful the Minneapolis City Council will shift markedly to the left after November’s elections, and they don’t want a mayor’s veto to stand in the way of change.
“Some of the candidates are raising quite a bit of money from developers and corporate interests, and the mayor can act as a block even if something is supported by the City Council,” Chavis said.
And co-governance was a founding principle for TakeAction Minnesota, said Kenza Hadj-Moussa, a spokeswoman for the group. TakeAction isn’t asking for a desk in elected officials’ offices when it asks them to co-govern with progressive groups, but wants to make sure it isn’t forgotten by candidates it endorses after the election is over.
“To those candidates who have a problem with the language, I would say ‘catch up!’ ” Hadj-Moussa said. “We need to do politics differently.”