On a cold, damp Saturday, mayoral hopefuls in Minneapolis and St. Paul hit the streets and the phones and rallied volunteers for a final push ahead of Tuesday’s election.
Both tight races are being guided by debates over public safety, police accountability and affordable housing.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges faces an intense battle against 15 challengers. Five candidates have participated in almost all the forums through the campaign: state Rep. Ray Dehn, Council Member Jacob Frey, Tom Hoch, Hodges and Nekima Levy-Pounds.
In St. Paul, voters will pick a new mayor for the first time in 12 years because Chris Coleman is not running again. Ten candidates are vying to replace him, including former Council Members Melvin Carter and Pat Harris, Council Member Dai Thao, Elizabeth Dickinson and Tom Goldstein.
Voter interest has been high. Record crowds showed up at Minneapolis DFL caucuses in April and early voting is up threefold in both cities.
But in an election where voters get to rank their top choices, the results are far from certain.
“I am going to get on the phones and make my own calls until we’re annoying people because it’s too late or my voice gives out, whichever comes first,” Hodges said at a rally Saturday at her campaign headquarters on Lake Street.
The St. Paul race was rocked in recent weeks by statements from the police union that attempted to tie a rise in gun violence in the city to the theft of firearms from candidate Carter’s home.
On Saturday morning, he was focused on reaching voters.
“There are still a lot of people out there who are undecided,” he told campaign volunteers. “There are three days left, and I am convinced that what happens over these last three days is going to decide who our next mayor is and what course this city takes over the next generation.”
Here’s how some of the candidates are making their final pitch:
Rallying in Minneapolis
Frey had breakfast Saturday at Gigi’s Café on 36th Street and then stopped at a supporter’s home in King Field to grab brochures before driving deep into southwest Minneapolis to knock on doors. He worked one side of a quiet street, a staffer worked the other. No one answered the first four doors, but at the fifth an older man said he’d be voting for Frey and then waved the candidate along.
Six doors later, Frey had three more first-choice votes and one man who said he would “make up my mind today or tomorrow.”
At the last house on the street, a middle-aged couple said they’d be voting for Frey. He thanked them, and as he walked away, the man said, “Take care, Jacob. Or should I say Mayor Frey?”
Hodges’ volunteers streamed into campaign headquarters for a rally and bowls of chili. A singer with a guitar played Bob Marley’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” and everyone sang along.
Hodges was hoarse but in good spirits. She knelt to speak with a supporter’s toddler and clapped as the group of about 40 chanted, “four more years, four more years.”
“This year has been in many ways a very strange dream, and all of you were there,” she joked.
The election is about whether “we are taking care of each other” and addressing racial inequalities in Minneapolis, she said.
The crowd sipped mimosas at a house party for Hoch — roughly his 70th meet-and-greet since he launched his campaign in February.
“It’s fun meeting people. It’s getting less fun not to be asleep,” he joked as he spoke to a group of voters.
Conversation hushed when Hoch stood to speak, framed by a stained-glass window in the dining room. He ran through his pitch and then asked for everyone’s first-choice vote.
“I come at this job with a great degree of humility,” he said. “It’s a hard job. I’ll need all of you to help me do it.”
Levy-Pounds’ volunteers gathered at the home of DFL Sen. Patricia Torres Ray for coffee before door-knocking. The group posed for a photo, then left Levy-Pounds behind as she got caught up in conversations with voters.
One woman who’d planned to make Dehn her first choice and rank Levy-Pounds second said, after a 20-minute conversation, that she might be swayed. Another said she’d planned to vote for Aswar Rahman, who suspended his campaign last week, but now supported Levy-Pounds.
Beaming, Levy-Pounds high-fived the woman. “Thank you, sister,” she said.
Dehn has spent much of his campaign talking to small groups of voters, and Saturday was no different. Eight people sat around three tables pushed together at Whole Sum Kitchen and lobbed questions while an espresso machine whirred in the background. “We’ve been running a campaign where we’re doing tons of conversations like this,” he said.
The meet-and-greet went 30 minutes longer than planned, and Dehn finally had to cut it off — he had four more events to attend.
Stumping across St. Paul
In St. Paul, Thao spent Friday morning in the lobby of Iowa Hi-Rise in the city’s northeast corner. Residents of the senior housing complex, which will become a polling place Tuesday, listened as Thao told them he was one of the “regular people” and would work for them. He wrote down their complaints about pedestrian safety and unplowed sidewalks on the back of a business card.
“You seem like you care about us,” Thelma Motten told Thao.
“I grew up in a culture where our elders are the pinnacle of our social structure,” Thao said. “I want to bring that into our government.”
All the campaigns rallied supporters to help with voter outreach.
“It’s the final stretch! Come on out and help us spread the word about Elizabeth before Election Day!” Elizabeth Dickinson’s campaign posted on Facebook, asking people to join her in preparing and dropping off campaign literature. Tom Goldstein’s volunteers hit the trail after a pancake and waffle breakfast at Council Member Jane Prince’s home.
“We don’t have the money to do massive mailings over and over again, so it’s all about volunteers helping us to reach voters before Election Day,” he said.
Even the candidates who have the money for mass mailings — Carter and Harris — relied on volunteer help.
Carter called in some DFL political star power: Gov. Mark Dayton and state Rep. Erin Murphy spoke to about 50 supporters bundled up in jackets, hats and boots.
“Getting people to vote is going to be a critical test this election,” Dayton told Carter’s team before they fanned out.
At an apartment complex in Mears Park, Carter asked people about their vision for St. Paul and laid out his: One where disparities are addressed and more money is spent on the city’s youngest residents.
Harris also started the morning giving a pep talk to approximately 50 supporters. Then he, his wife, Laura, and 6-year-old son, Joey, headed south near West 7th Street, in the ward he used to represent on the City Council.
Few people answered their doors on the quiet, chilly Saturday morning. So he jotted notes on campaign literature — “Stopped by to say hello, sorry I missed you” — and tucked them into door handles. When one woman answered, peering cautiously through a glass door, he didn’t press her to talk.
“My number is on there. If you have any questions give me a holler, I live in the neighborhood,” Harris said.