Jacob Frey announced Tuesday he will run for mayor of Minneapolis, presenting himself as a candidate in the mold of R.T. Rybak who will use the city’s bully pulpit to cheerlead, build coalitions and propel the city forward.
“The only way you get anything done in our city is by building coalitions,” Frey, an attorney and first-term City Council member said, noting the city’s weak-mayor system. “You build a coalition of support, and you have a visible, present leader with a clear and bright vision.”
Frey has long been expected to run for mayor and should offer a sharp challenge to Mayor Betsy Hodges in her campaign for re-election in November. Civil rights activist Nekima Levy-Pounds, state Rep. Raymond Dehn, DFL-Minneapolis, and filmmaker Aswar Rahman have also announced they are running.
The most recent campaign finance reports, reflecting 2015 fundraising, showed Frey had more than $100,000, nearly 10 times as much as Hodges.
On Tuesday Frey persuaded more than 300 people to show up for an announcement party at Dangerous Man Brewing in northeast Minneapolis, where he jumped on the bar, grabbed a microphone and shouted that “it’s cold outside, but with all of you in here I feel a little heat!”
In a speech that was light on specifics, his call for a mayor who relentlessly cheerleads the city and coordinates with other government leaders was a subtle jab at Hodges, who considers herself a strong behind-the-scenes mayor. He pledged to make Minneapolis the greenest city in the country and to end homelessness in the city.
“In Minneapolis we don’t just deal with our homelessness problem, we buck up and give people homes,” he said.
Hodges stressed the need to stand up to President-elect Trump in her speech announcing her run for re-election, and Frey also referenced that.
“We don’t simply need to defend Minneapolis against Donald Trump,” he said. “We can join hands, we can face the world together and declare once and for all that Minneapolis is a place of inclusivity, Minneapolis is a place of opportunity, Minneapolis is a place of compassionate people where every single person deserves an affordable place to stay in a safe and thriving neighborhood.”
A native of northern Virginia, Frey said he fell in love with Minneapolis when he came here to run the Twin Cities marathon and moved here to build a life after finishing law school at Villanova University. He took a job at Faegre and Benson, then moved to the law firm Halunen & Associates, and ran for council in 2013, knocking off incumbent Diane Hofstede with the help of endorsements from four sitting council members.
He serves the Third Ward, which includes the North Loop and parts of downtown and northeast Minneapolis. He has been a visible presence coordinating the city’s development of the Downtown East Commons, and co-sponsored an ordinance that legalized Lyft and UberX services, while loosening regulations on the city’s taxi industry.
“He keeps his promises, and he is accessible and he is an amazing listener, which is a rare trait in a politician,” said Claudia Kittock, 64, who lives in the Mill District, which is part of Frey’s ward. “And he’ll tell you if he can’t do it. He’s honest.”
Frey has worked to cultivate both the business community and activists on the left, and has not always succeeded.
In his first year as a council member, he was criticized for trying to cut spending by chopping new positions meant to lead the city’s racial-equity efforts and funding for clean energy and new homeowner programs. Activists filled the council’s offices and some of them chanted, “enough with the lie, we want Frey.”
The DFL precinct caucuses will be April 4. The mayoral DFL convention is in June.