Minneapolis mayoral candidate bio: Betsy Hodges

Minneapolis mayoral candidate, Betsy Hodges. (MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson)

Fifth in a series.

Betsy Hodges enjoys balancing the billion-dollar Minneapolis city budget. And as chair of the City Council’s Ways and Means/Budget Committee for the past four years, she’s had plenty of practice.

“The budget is the foundation of everything else we do in the city, and it is where our money meets our values,” Hodges said.

If voters like how the city is running now, Hodges says they should choose her to be the city’s next mayor on Nov. 5.

Hodges has represented the southwest corner of Minneapolis as the Ward 13 councilmember since 2005. During her eight years on the council, Hodges has been closely aligned with Mayor R.T. Rybak, who is not seeking reelection.

“People often ask me, what’s the biggest difference between you and [Rybak], and I say, ‘he had to govern in a recession. I will be governing in a recovery,'” Hodges said.

In 2010, she helped cut Rybak’s proposed budget by $6 million. She also spent several years working on pension reform, and she helped engineer a plan to merge the city’s pension system for retired police officers with a state fund.

“It is not sexy to talk about fighting for six years for pension reform. It is not sexy, until I tell you that in 2012, fighting hard for pension reform saved you a $20 million tax levy bill,” she told supporters when she launched her campaign in April.

Hodges says the council’s difficult choices during and after the recession have prepared Minneapolis to take advantage of the economic recovery. But some of those choices have made her some enemies.

Hodges has repeatedly butted heads with Minneapolis’ firefighters union regarding fire department staffing levels and firefighters’ use of sick time.

The union had endorsed councilmember and former mayoral candidate Gary Schiff. But when Schiff threw his support to Hodges at the Minneapolis DFL Convention in June, the union dumped him on the spot.

“How does he swing his voters to her, knowing the issues we had with her?” union President Mark Lakosky asked, clearly outraged.

The union didn’t even wait for Schiff to drop out of the race before endorsing Mark Andrew, Hodges’ chief rival on the campaign trail.

The only labor group to endorse Hodges has been the Service Employees International Union, but she has received other high-profile endorsements, including EMILY’s List and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

While Hodges has campaigned on a message of fiscal responsibility, her campaign has been struggling to pay its bills.

In April, Hodges said her campaign’s budget was about $1 million. But as of late August, her fundraising efforts totaled only $220,000.

An MPR News analysis of campaign finance data shows Hodges campaign has been running a budget deficit since March.

“We decided very early that we were going to have a deep and wide field operation,” Hodges said. “And when you do that, you have to invest early, and you have to invest a lot early. It was a strategic choice that we made.”

Hodges’ campaign manager expects the campaign’s finances to be back in the black by Election Day.

If elected, Hodges proposes to expand city health services to expectant mothers and new parents.

She says helping young children will improve educational outcomes for minorities, but hasn’t yet said how much she would spend on the program.

Cody Nelson contributed to this report.

  AGE: 44

• 2005 to present: Member, Minneapolis City Council
• Previous: Aide, Office of Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman

• Executive director, Progressive Minnesota (now Take Action Minnesota)
• Development director, Minnesota Justice Foundation

KEY ENDORSEMENTS: Emily’s List, Service Employees International Union, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

WEBSITE: betsyhodges.org