Minneapolis DFL delegates have returned endorsements in seven of 13 City Council seats.
They gave the nod to five incumbents and endorsed a challenger for one seat and another for an open seat.
Elliott Payne bested Council Member Kevin Reich in the First Ward, earning about 78% of the delegates. For the Ninth Ward seat being vacated by Alondra Cano, Jason Chavez won 69% of delegates.
Incumbent Council Members Phillipe Cunningham, Lisa Goodman, Andrea Jenkins, Andrew Johnson and Linea Palmisano all received enough votes to earn endorsements.
There were no endorsements for the other six seats up for election, including those held by incumbents Jeremiah Ellison, Steve Fletcher, Cam Gordon, Jamal Osman and Jeremy Schroeder and the 10th Ward seat being vacated by Council President Lisa Bender.
But challengers made strong showings in two races that could signal trouble for Ellison and Schroeder, both first-term council members.
Candidates won endorsement by collecting more than 60% of delegates in the final round of ranked-choice voting during the DFL's virtual process.
In the six seats without endorsements, Minneapolis DFL Chair Devin Hogan said some delegates wanted to vote no endorsement and others were deadlocked.
For the race in the Second Ward seat held by Gordon, a Green Party member, Yusra Arab missed the endorsement threshold by 3 percentage points.
Arab, a former policy aide to former Council Member Abdi Warsame, accused her opponent Tom Anderson's campaign of sending targeted e-mails to East African voters in what she called "an attempt to discourage them from participating in the process."
"We reject those claims," said Lexi Byler, communications director for Anderson. "Our campaign has never targeted anyone by race, national origin or any other marginalized demographics."
For the Fifth Ward seat in north Minneapolis, Victor Martinez received 58% of delegate votes to Ellison's 39%.
Martinez is a Mexican American pastor who is new to city politics and has been running on the platform of lowering crime through youth diversion and community empowerment and rehabbing W. Broadway.
He said Thursday that his campaign message has resonated with delegates in his ward because "we don't want less police here. We want more."
Martinez claimed that the DFL endorsement was not transparent and that some of his delegates' ballots were invalidated. Hogan rejected those claims, saying the raw data is public.
Ellison has been one of the council's most stalwart advocates to reduce the police budget to fund alternative ways to prevent violence.
In an interview Thursday, Ellison pointed to the contentious year the city has grappled with and said residents are upset and questioning current leadership.
"My opponents are working hard as they should be, and I'm working hard as well," Ellison said. "My big thing is that there's no endorsement, and I'm going to be running until November."
In the Sixth Ward, Osman went head-to-head with Abdirizak Bihi, a longtime community leader who had challenged him during a special election last year to fill the seat vacated by Warsame. Osman got 55% of the delegate votes over Bihi, short of the endorsement threshold in a ward with a large East African community.
Bender's 10th Ward seat was one of the most competitive DFL races. After six rounds of voting in a crowded field of candidates, Aisha Chughtai and Alicia Gibson earned most of the votes but neither had enough to get an endorsement.
In the Eleventh Ward in south Minneapolis, Emily Koski earned 54% of the delegates, blocking Schroeder's endorsement.
Ward endorsement started June 2 and ended Tuesday. According to the party, more than 4,800 delegates cast their votes for their preferred candidates.
In a news release Thursday, party leaders lauded their virtual endorsement process, saying it took most delegates less than 10 minutes to vote and that "every vote was cast without risk of COVID during a global pandemic."
The party posted its endorsements of the candidates on its website Thursday morning, a day before its scheduled release.
Hogan said this year's caucus turnout was more than double that of 2017, the last city election year. More than 94% of DFL ward delegates voted for City Council endorsement, according to the party.
Voting for city convention races, including mayor, Board of Estimate and Taxation, and Park Board opened this week and closes Tuesday. Results will be announced June 19.
Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203