The DFL caucuses in Minneapolis this week drew twice as many people as the last city election four years ago, but no candidate for mayor emerged as a dominant favorite.
That makes a DFL endorsement in the race less likely, setting up a wide-open race for the city’s top political job.
Caucus results haven’t been tallied and will only be partial even once completed. But reports from about 20 DFL insiders across the city point to a three-way endorsement race at the Minneapolis DFL convention on July 8.
Council Member Jacob Frey mustered a visible presence and performed well in voter-rich neighborhoods to the west and south of downtown. Support for Mayor Betsy Hodges was not as visible but was nonetheless widespread, with a solid showing in most parts of the city.
The night’s biggest surprise was state Rep. Raymond Dehn, who made strong showings in areas north and west of downtown, where he is best known to residents, but also in Northeast and in areas just south of downtown.
Tom Hoch, former head of Hennepin Theatre Trust, did not attract much caucus support. Nekima Levy-Pounds, a lawyer and former head of the Minneapolis NAACP, announced a day before the caucuses that she would not seek the DFL endorsement.
The next major milepost in the mayor’s race is the city DFL convention at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Delegates elected Tuesday night will gather to try to endorse a candidate. Uncommitted delegates already have begun to receive phone calls.
The DFL has failed to endorse a mayoral candidate in a contested Minneapolis race for two decades. In order to win the endorsement, a candidate has to gain the support of 60 percent of convention delegates.
None of the current candidates claims to have anywhere near that much support.
“It’s a high threshold for a reason, and I think there’s a long time between today and July 8,” Dehn said. “A lot of things can happen.”
Dehn, who has attracted support from progressives, said his campaign exceeded its goals. He credited such groups as Neighbors Organizing for Change, Our Revolution, Take Action MN and Give A S*** Mpls. for working to raise turnout at caucuses.
Dehn, Frey and Hodges crisscrossed the city Tuesday night, stepping into caucus meetings and stumping briefly. Each took a microphone in the cafeteria at South High School as the night wore on.
Hodges won the election in 2013 without an endorsement. So far this year, the Frey campaign has appeared to put the most energy into winning the local party seal of approval. Frey said Wednesday that’s still the goal.
“While a DFL incumbent is generally expected to get the DFL endorsement, the citywide support we exhibited yesterday shows we can do more than simply block, we can really compete,” Frey said.
Hodges said she was impressed by the overall caucus turnout, and her campaign feels good about its chances of winning the endorsement.
“This is a big moment. Donald Trump is president. People really know we’re at a crossroads,” Hodges said Wednesday. “A lot of people came out. I’m impressed by it and gratified by the support I got in the middle of it. I did well. Got support in every part of the city.”
Hodges said she’s going for it despite the recent historical difficulty of getting endorsed.
“I am playing to win the endorsement,” Hodges said, “for sure.”