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.

Jacob Frey (D) re-elected as Minneapolis mayor

Jacob Frey (D) won the mayoral election in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Nov. 2. Seventeen candidates ran.

Voters could rank up to three candidates on the ballot under the city’s ranked choice voting system. Under that system, if no candidate receives a majority in the first round of tallying, candidates who mathematically cannot win are eliminated from the running and votes are redistributed to second and then third choices on those ballots. In the second round of tabulations, unofficial results showed Frey with 56.2% to Katherine Knuth’s 43.8%. Both Frey and Knuth ran as Democrats.

One of the biggest issues in the race, taking place the year after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, was policing. Frey opposed and Knuth supported a proposed charter amendment to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Health. That amendment, Question 2, was defeated on Nov. 2 by 56.2% of voters, with 43.8% supporting it. 

Frey has been in office since 2017. Frey said his administration “consistently supported a both-and approach to community-led public safety solutions beyond traditional policing, as well as working alongside Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) leadership to build a better and more accountable department.” He also campaigned on his record on affordable housing, what he called “racially equitable economic growth,” and climate issues.

Knuth is a former state representative. She filled out Ballotpedia’s Candidate survey, where she wrote, “Minneapolis is demanding a public safety system founded on one key value. Every person – regardless of race, gender, age, income, ability, or zip code – should be safe in our city. Voters are rightly asking for this vision and a concrete path toward it.” She also said the city needed an “unabashed climate justice champion” and new leadership.

Minneapolis also held elections for city council and other charter amendments. Click below for more on these elections.

Additional reading:

Initial, non-tabulated results for Minneapolis’ RCV mayoral race

Photo of the city of Minneapolis' skyline.

Minneapolis, Minn.’s mayoral election on Nov. 2 remained uncalled as of 1 p.m. ET on Nov. 3. The city used ranked choice voting. Voters could rank up to three candidates on their ballot. Initial election results showing voters’ first-choice candidates were available.

  • Incumbent Jacob Frey received 43% of first-choice votes
  • Sheila Nezhad had 21%
  • Katherine Knuth had 18%

Initial results also showed who voters selected as their second and third choices.

  • Frey was the second choice on 12% of ballots and third choice on 15%
  • Nezhad was the second choice on 20% and third on 11%
  • Knuth was second on 32% and third on 11%

Seventeen candidates ran in the election.

In ranked-choice voting, a candidate is declared the winner if he or she wins a majority of first-preference votes. In Minneapolis, if no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, either the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes or a group of candidates with no mathematical chance of winning are eliminated. First-preference votes cast for those candidates are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

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. The three candidates leading in initial results all identify as Democrats. Overall, eight candidates identified as Democrats and two identified as Republicans. The remaining seven candidates identified with a mixture of minor parties or identified as independents.

Additional reading:

Campaigns surrounding Minneapolis initiative to replace police department raised $4.56 million, with supporters out-raising opponents by 2-to-1

Campaigns surrounding Minneapolis initiative to replace police department raised $4.56 million, with supporters out-raising opponents by 2-to-1

On Nov. 2, voters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will decide Question 2 to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety. Under the citizen initiative, the DPS would be responsible for “a comprehensive public health approach to safety,” including the employment of licensed police officers if needed to fulfill the department’s responsibilities. Question 2 would remove the minimum funding requirement for police (1.7 police employees per 1,000 residents) from the Minneapolis Charter.

The campaign Yes 4 Minneapolis proposed the ballot initiative. Through October 19, 2021, Yes 4 Minneapolis had received $2.97 million, including $650,000 from Open Society Policy Center (OSPC) and $625,000 from Reclaim the Block. In 1993, George Soros founded the Open Society Foundations. Reclaim the Block is an organization founded in 2018 to encourage the Minneapolis City Council to reallocate money from the police to other services. Officials that support the measure include U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-5) and Attorney General Keith Ellison.

All of Mpls, a political action committee, is opposing Question 2. Through October 19, All of Mpls had received $1.59 million, with $585,000 from Plan for Progress, a nonprofit associated with All of Mpls, and $210,000 from James Lawrence, non-executive chairman at Lake Harriet Capital, LLC. Officials that oppose the measure include U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D) and Tina Smith (D), Gov. Tim Walz (D), and Mayor Jacob Frey (D).

Question 2 has been debated by the mayoral candidates in the upcoming election. Incumbent Mayor Jacob Frey and candidate AJ Awed oppose the ballot measure. Candidates Katherine Knuth and Sheila Nezhad support the ballot measure.

Ballotpedia is tracking six notable local police-related ballot measures, including Minneapolis Question 2, that voters will decide on Nov. 2, 2021. Others on the ballot include Austin, Texas, Proposition A and Cleveland, Ohio, Issue 24.

Additional reading:

All candidates answer Ballotpedia’s survey in Minneapolis City Council Ward 11 race

All five candidates in the race for Minneapolis City Council Ward 11—incumbent Jeremy Schroeder (D), Dillon Gherna (D), Emily Koski (D), Albert T. Ross (D), and Kurt Michael Anderson (I)—completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. This survey allows candidates to speak directly to Ballotpedia readers, describing who they are, why they are running, and what they would prioritize if elected.

On Oct. 13, Axios Twin Cities’ Nick Halter wrote that “The City Council has been moving to the left for several years now,” adding, “If you want to know which way the Minneapolis City council is headed, keep an eye on Ward 11.”

Public safety and policing have been key issues in this race and others across Minneapolis. In addition to elected officials, voters in Minneapolis will also decide several local ballot measures, including Question 2, a charter amendment that would replace the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) with a Department of Public Safety (DPS). Last August, Schroeder voted in favor of placing Question 2 on the November ballot.

Minneapolis was one of six cities included in Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Expansion Project, which allowed local voters to submit questions about pressing issues they wanted their elected officials to address. One of those community questions related directly to Question 2 and candidates’ stances on the measure.

Below are excerpts from each candidates’ surveys in response to this question. Click on candidates’ names to view their full survey responses:

What role do you feel police should play in Minneapolis? What are your thoughts on the city council’s proposed changes to the Minneapolis Police Department?

  1. Schroeder: “Armed police officers cannot solve every public safety issue in the city, and we need to unburden police officers currently faced with the unfair challenge of responding to every kind of crisis.”
  2. Gherna: “The police should maintain their role in the public safety eco-system … I do not believe defunding or abolishing the police will accomplish this.”
  3. Koski: “I do not support the Public Safety Charter Amendment proposed by Yes 4 Minneapolis.”
  4. Ross did not respond to this community question directly, but elsewhere in his survey wrote: “I promise I want to defund or dismantle our Minneapolis Police Department.”
  5. Anderson: “I strongly oppose Charter Amendment 2 … It is the wolf of police defunding dressed in the sheepskin of public safety.”

According to the most recent campaign finance data, Koski led the field with $53,477 on hand followed by Schroeder with $19,549, as of July 27, 2021.

All 13 city council wards are up for election this November. In addition to Ward 11, incumbents are seeking re-election in all but two of the races with a total of 58 candidates running overall. Of those 58 candidates, 20 have completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey.

Additional reading:

District judge rules against ballot initiative to replace Minneapolis Police Department; Supreme Court will hear appeal

Voters in Minneapolis will see a citizen-initiated charter amendment on their ballots to replace the Minneapolis Police Department. On Sept. 14, however, District Court Judge Jamie Anderson ruled that the ballot question for the proposal was unreasonable and misleading and enjoined election officials from counting votes on Nov. 2. On Sept. 15, the Minnesota Supreme Court, which would have final jurisdiction, agreed to hear an appeal.

Judge Anderson has ruled on the ballot language on three occasions. On Aug. 13, Anderson ruled against the Minneapolis City Council for including a statement summarizing the ballot measure that “[waded] into a grey area of explanation that is not allowed.” On Sept. 7, Anderson struck down a ballot question as “vague to the point of being misleading” and said that “ambiguities risk creating a ‘chaotic situation’ in Minneapolis.” The Minneapolis City Council approved a different, longer ballot question in response to the judge’s order. On Sept. 14, Anderson struck down the new council-approved ballot question. As ballots went to print on Sept. 7, the Minneapolis City Council cannot again change the question on the November ballot. The previous two cases were not appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. 

The ballot initiative followed the Minneapolis City Council’s attempt to craft an ordinance replacing the MPD following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed Floyd, was charged and sentenced for murder and manslaughter. The Minneapolis City Council approved legislation for a ballot in 2020, but, on Aug. 5, 2020, the city’s charter commission voted 10-5 to take an additional 90 days to evaluate the proposal and not send the proposal back to the City Council, blocking the measure from appearing on the ballot in 2020. 

In 2021, the campaign Yes 4 Minneapolis launched a ballot initiative campaign to replace the MPD. Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions Collective, is the board chairperson of Yes 4 Minneapolis, and JaNaé Bates, a theologian and communications director of ISAIAH, is the campaign’s communications director. Through the most recent report filing deadline on July 27, 2021, Yes 4 Minneapolis had received $1.48 million, including $500,000 from Open Society Policy Center and $430,383 from MoveOn.

The ballot initiative has the support of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-5) and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D). Opponents include U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (D-2), Gov. Tim Walz (D), and Mayor Jacob Frey (D). A campaign called All of Mpls is opposing the proposal. Through July 27, All of Mpls raised $109,465. 

The ballot initiative is one of three policing-related local measures on the ballot for Nov. 2, 2021, that Ballotpedia is covering. The others are a ballot initiative in Austin, Texas, to require a minimum number of police officers; and a ballot initiative in Cleveland, Ohio, to create a commission to oversee police misconduct investigations and discipline.