Betsy Hodges holds commanding lead in Minneapolis mayoral race

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges speaks to supporters Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 at El Nuevo Rodeo in Minneapolis. (MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson)
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    Nov. 6, 2013 Curtis Gilbert reports on Hodges’ lead

Minneapolis City Council Member Betsy Hodges won such strong support from voters today in her campaign for mayor that her closest opponent, former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew, all but conceded.

Hodges is leading the race with 36 percent of voters’ first-choice ballots, according to unofficial results from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website.

That isn’t good enough for an outright win under the city’s ranked-choice voting system. But Andrew, who received 24 percent of the votes, said that his deficit would be difficult to overcome.

Although Hodges was measured in her remarks at her election night celebration at El Nuevo Rodeo restaurant Tuesday night, many of her supporters felt victory was all but assured.

“We do not know who the next mayor of Minneapolis is,” Hodges told the crowd. “What we do know is that we’re 11 points ahead.”

Hodges chalked her success up to a superior voter outreach effort.

“We have been, from day one, the people-powered, grassroots campaign, working day after day after day, talking to voter after voter after voter to be first choice on people’s ballot,” she said.

After Hodges’ strong showing, Andrew was not optimistic about his chances of narrowing the gap.

“I don’t think we’re really allowed to concede until we know when all the votes are determined, but personally I don’t think it’s possible for us to come back,” he said.

Andrew said he told supporters Tuesday night that Hodges would do very well as mayor of Minneapolis.

City Council member Don Samuels received a little more than 10 percent of the votes.

Of the 35 candidates in the Minneapolis mayoral race, Hodges, Andrew and Samuels were the only three candidates who managed to earn more than 10 percent of the vote in the most hotly contested mayor’s race Minneapolis has seen in 20 years.

All of the candidates want to succeed three-term incumbent R.T. Rybak, who didn’t seek re-election.

It was the first time Minneapolis used ranked-choice voting in a mayoral election without an incumbent. It could take until Wednesday evening for election officials to sort out who voters chose to be their new mayor.

Voters ranked three candidates according to their preference. Election officials will eliminate the candidates with the fewest supporters until one candidate passes the 50 percent threshold or only two candidates are left.

Powderhorn Park Recreation Center election judge Judith Rivkin said the ranked-choice balloting went very smoothly.

Voter Hayley Gonzalez wasn’t intimidated by the ranked-choice balloting system, but she said she was overwhelmed by the number of mayoral candidates in the race.

“I’m disappointed in myself because I do care about politics, and I recognize that local politics are super important,” Gonzalez said. “This time around I wasn’t that excited by any of them, and it was a little daunting that there were so many.”

Gonzalez said she’d support raising the threshold required to file as a mayoral candidate. The cost is only $20. Mayoral candidates also have the option of convincing 500 eligible Minneapolis voters to sign a petition.

Election officials will continue to count up second choices in the mayoral race today. After the mayoral race is concluded, officials will start counting second or third choices on any remaining Minneapolis City Council contests.

MPR News reporter Curtis Gilbert contributed to this story.