Five incumbents defeated in Minneapolis city council elections

Photo of the city of Minneapolis' skyline.

The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, held general elections for all 13 of its city council seats on Nov. 2, 2021. Fifty-eight candidates—including eleven incumbents—ran in the elections. Minneapolis used ranked-choice voting in the election, which allowed voters to rank up to three candidates on the ballot.

Of the eleven incumbents running for city council, five lost their re-election bids: Elliot Payne defeated Kevin Reich in District 1, Robin Wonsley Worlobah defeated Cam Gordon in District 2, Michael Rainville defeated Steve Fletcher in District 3, LaTrisha Vetaw defeated Phillipe Cunningham in District 4, and Emily Koski defeated Jeremy Schroeder in District 11. In comparison, three out of eleven total incumbents were defeated in the city’s 2017 city council elections.

Six incumbents won re-election: Jeremiah Ellison in District 5, Jamal Osman in District 6, Lisa Goodman in District 7, Andrea Jenkins in District 8, Andrew Johnson in District 12, and Linea Palmisano in District 13. All incumbents were Democrats except Cam Gordon, who ran as a Green Party candidate. In the two open city council seats, Jason Chavez (D) won in District 9, and Aisha Chughtai (D) won in District 10.

The Star Tribune’s Kelly Smith described the city council and mayoral elections as microcosms of a more general rift in the Democratic Party, writing “[t]he split between moderate and progressive Democratic candidates ahead of the Nov. 2 election reflects a broader gap across Minnesota and nationwide as the Democratic establishment faces intense competition from a newly energized and insurgent progressive wing of the party.” Axios Twin Cities’ Nick Halter also observed the rift, writing, “[t]he City Council has been moving to the left for several years now, and a slate of challengers [in Wards 3, 4, and 11] could move the needle back toward the middle.” This divide was seen most clearly in the debate over public safety, housing policy, and three proposed amendments to the city’s charter, which voters also decided on Nov. 2.

Elections in Minneapolis are officially nonpartisan, but the Minneapolis City Charter allows mayoral and city council candidates to choose a party label to appear below their name on the official ballot.

Of the 58 candidates who sought election, 42 were Democrats, four were Republicans, and 12 were independent or some other party. While 42 candidates identified as Democrats, the Minneapolis Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) issued its own official endorsements in seven wards. The party did not issue endorsements in six races, five of which featured incumbents.