Thousands of Minneapolis voters showed up to caucus Tuesday night, taking the first step on the road to city elections in November.
The caucuses are a test of candidate strength in the mayoral race and an early indicator of which City Council races are most competitive. All 13 council seats are up for grabs.
Big crowds showed up all over the city to see candidates stump and to volunteer as delegates at conventions later this year where the DFL will try to endorse candidates. Many expect the DFL will not endorse anyone in the mayoral race.
The caucuses offered few concrete indicators of which campaigns had early leads, since there was no central tally of delegates lined up behind specific candidates. But the meetings were the first sign of whether a young movement of progressive DFLers will dislodge established incumbents, and early indications were that challengers Jillia Pessenda in the First Ward, Jeremiah Ellison in the Fifth Ward and Mohamed Farah in the Ninth Ward all made strong showings.
Here’s a look at the scene from some of the wards:
About 800 people showed up at South High School, the site for all caucuses in the Ninth Ward. Smaller precincts took over classrooms and larger ones spilled into the cafeteria.
The ward, one of the city’s most diverse, includes parts of the Phillips neighborhood and all of Corcoran, Powderhorn Park and Central.
City Council Member Alondra Cano has two challengers in the race — former Council Member Gary Schiff and nonprofit director Mohamed Farah.
“This looks bigger than some of the presidential caucuses I’ve been to,” said Mike Troutman, who has caucused several times. He was wearing a Cano sticker and said he supported Mayor Betsy Hodges for re-election.
Somali turnout was significant, and Farah appeared to win or do well in several precincts outside of Phillips. In the Corcoran neighborhood, Farah won 24 of a possible 52 delegates, while Cano gained 15 and Schiff got seven.
Shukri Hassan, sitting with three younger women, said she was a first-time caucusgoer there to support Farah.
“This is a Democratic country and we are exercising our right,” Hassan said. “We are here for someone who we feel will do a good job.”
Cano’s campaign set out food for supporters, and she dominated in the precinct around her home neighborhood of Powderhorn Park.
Kevin Burk, who manages a coffee shop, was there to caucus for Cano. He said he spent an hour on the phone with her Sunday discussing a $15 minimum wage, which he thinks should be phased in gradually.
“She was super receptive to listening to me,” Burk said of Cano, who has been a proponent of raising the wage.
Hodges and two of her mayoral challengers — Council Member Jacob Frey and state Rep. Raymond Dehn — stumped in the Ninth Ward as they crisscrossed the city for brief appearances.
The scene in the Somali-dominated Sixth Ward was chaotic.
Shoving matches and medical emergencies resulted from crowding at the Brian Coyle Community Center, where more than 400 people crammed into the building’s small gymnasium. Council Member Abdi Warsame, who is being challenged by Mohamud Noor, showed up to address the crowd.
“We’re winning in every precinct,” Warsame said. “My supporters, I want you to calm the situation.”
Fire officials shut down the location and sent the caucus outside to Currie Park, which is next to the Coyle Center.
Delegates for the citywide convention were not chosen in some precincts in the Sixth Ward — that part of the process will be delayed.
Noor said the event was poorly organized, and that the DFL was not ready for the high turnout.
In the near North Side’s Fifth Ward, Council Member Blong Yang faces three challengers: Jeremiah Ellison, Raeisha Williams and Cathy Spann. Williams is not seeking the DFL endorsement.
Ellison’s campaign was highly visible. Volunteers posted signs throughout North High — where residents of most precincts in the ward met to caucus — and handed out guides explaining the process.
Katy Vonk, 29, attended the Minneapolis DFL caucus for the first time Tuesday — her first-ever caucus was for Sen. Bernie Sanders last year. She said she’s continued to follow the group Our Revolution, which endorsed Ellison.
“I just feel like he’s right for the community,” Vonk said, adding that she would also like to see Nekima Levy-Pounds succeed in the mayoral race.
Yang, who was elected for the first time in 2013, has drawn criticism for his leadership of the diverse North Side ward, including for how he responded to the 2015 Fourth Precinct occupation.
About 300 First Ward residents, from younger first-timers to veterans, caucused at Northeast Middle School, where candidates Zachary Wefel and Jillia Pessenda stumped, and Pessenda appeared to make a strong showing. Council Member Kevin Reich was not there.
Discussion was calm and participants sat quietly while candidates and their volunteers requested support.
The Rev. Sarah Lawton, a pastor at Northeast United Methodist Church, walked to Northeast Middle School on Tuesday evening to caucus for the first time in recent memory, she said.
“I’m not a seasoned caucuser,” Lawton said, adding she’s getting involved in local politics in defiance of the Trump administration. “I don’t want that to be the last word.”
Chelsea Waters, 27, agreed. “I got a lot of messages from people that I know that voted for Bernie,” pushing for younger residents to caucus, she said.
Staff writers Emma Nelson and Faiza Mahamud and intern Jessie Bekker contributed to this report.