Three Minneapolis City Council members will seek the DFL endorsement this weekend in their bids for re-election, a seal of party approval that eluded their colleagues last week.
Delegates, many of them activists rallying around a push for a $15 minimum wage and equity issues, blocked endorsement for two incumbents and endorsed one challenger in the first round of city ward conventions last week. That dynamic will be at work as Council Members Kevin Reich, John Quincy and Linea Palmisano seek endorsement this Saturday, with all three facing sharp challenges from candidates positioning themselves as more progressive.
“The weekend foretold that it’s difficult for incumbents, but that just raises everybody’s expectations and redoubles efforts,” said Quincy, who faces challenges from Erica Mauter, the executive director of the Twin Cities Women’s Choir, and Jeremy Schroeder, policy director for the Minnesota Housing Partnership, in the Eleventh Ward in Minneapolis.
A young movement of DFLers in Minneapolis, many of them Bernie Sanders supporters, have fielded a slate of City Council challengers, turned out voters, trained caucusgoers and prepared for conventions with hopes of tipping the council to the left. That group flexed its muscles at last weekend’s conventions.
Neither Council President Barb Johnson nor Council Member Lisa Goodman — both powerful 20-year incumbents — won endorsements, and newcomer Jeremiah Ellison beat out Council Member Blong Yang for the DFL endorsement in north Minneapolis’s Fifth Ward.
Goodman won about 55 percent of the delegates over her opponent, Janne Flisrand, but couldn’t get the 60 percent needed for endorsement in the Seventh Ward. In the Fourth Ward in north Minneapolis, Johnson won fewer delegates than her chief challenger, Phillipe Cunningham, an aide to Mayor Betsy Hodges. It was the first time either Goodman or Johnson did not get endorsed for re-election.
Candidates with conventions on Saturday were reluctant to discuss the dynamics of the City Council races, but said they are aware of them.
“To the extent that there are some really accelerated national concerns looming over a lot of the conversations, that really has turned people to come out, particularly new people,” said Reich. “If there’s really a sense of change for change’s sake, it’s hard to logically come back on that.”
A second-term incumbent in northeast Minneapolis, Reich said he is counting on voters to view municipal government as a hyperlocal affair. “City Hall is the last bastion where government is very tangible, and voters want it to be very granular and responsive to almost immediate block-by-block needs,” Reich said. “That creates some nuance and difference throughout the city.”
Jillia Pessenda, Reich’s main challenger in the First Ward, said she’s been knocking on doors, calling, holding house parties and meeting for coffee to persuade delegates and alternates to support her on Saturday.
“What’s encouraging to me is the amount of people who are participating for the first time in this process,” said Pessenda, a communications consultant. “We are strengthening our local democracy, increasing participation, talking to folks about what’s important to them.”
In the race for endorsement in the Thirteenth Ward, in southwest Minneapolis, Palmisano faces a challenge from Adam Faitek, a fundraiser for Second Harvest Heartland. Faitek has positioned himself as a more progressive alternative to Palmisano. He said he is encouraged by the results from ward conventions last Saturday.
“People are coming out and are frustrated with the lack of progress on a number of issues,” Faitek said. “The way things are going is not working for everyone in our city, and there’s more we can do about it.”
Each ward has its own dynamics, said Palmisano, though her campaign is taking nothing for granted.
“People are fired up and I welcome their enthusiasm, but delegates in the Thirteenth Ward are telling me they want an experienced council member who’s going to continue to work on the things they value,” Palmisano said.
There will be five conventions on Saturday, but two of them — in the Eighth and Ninth Wards — don’t have the same dynamics as the other three. Andrea Jenkins is the only DFL candidate seeking endorsement in the Eighth Ward. Incumbent Council Member Alondra Cano, who already draws support from many progressive activists in the Ninth Ward, faces a battle for endorsement with challengers Mohamed Farah and Gary Schiff.
Conventions kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday. The locations are listed on the Minneapolis DFL’s website.