Minneapolis mayoral candidate bio: Cam Winton

Minneapolis mayoral candidate, Cam Winton. (MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson)

Seventh in a series.

With 35 candidates on the ballot, there has been no shortage of press conferences in the Minneapolis mayor’s race. But none compares to Cam Winton’s.

For a recent one, he rented two rabbits to illustrate his plan to speed up business licensing. The event also featured a 25-pound African tortoise.

When Winton wanted to question why the city favors union trash haulers, he showed up on a garbage truck. To call attention to the city’s crumbling roads, he stood in a pothole — until the street sweepers came through.

“Folks come, because they want to see the show, and if they leave a little bit educated on where I stand on policy, all the better,” he said.

Such antics could well be called for in Minneapolis. The last time the city had a mayor who wasn’t a Democrat, Winton wasn’t alive.

Winton, a 34-year-old Republican-leaning independent, is trying to end that DFL winning streak.

While other candidates have proposed a variety of task forces and pilot projects, Winton, an attorney, wants to make dramatic changes to Minneapolis city government.

He would cut spending on bike lanes and spend more on road repair. He would merge city human resources and technical support departments with Hennepin County. He’d also hire an additional 125 police officers, which would cost about $13 million a year.

Winton said the city needs to get back to basics.

“Too often, the current leadership has prioritized the nice-to-haves over the need-to-haves,” he said. “They’ve prioritized the bells and whistles over the basic functions of a city government.”

Winton acknowledges he’s more conservative than the other leading candidates, almost all of whom are DFLers.

“I have been active in that party,” he said during an interview in March. “But I really want to emphasize I’m not seeking the endorsement of the party. And there are ways that I disagree with that party.”

Although the GOP hasn’t made an official “endorsement” in the Minneapolis mayor’s race, the party’s website encourages voters to support Winton.

Winton said he disagrees with the Republican Party on same-sex marriage and environmental issues. For the last four years, he’s worked in the wind energy industry.

He also has some bipartisan political experience, thanks to his friend Ashwin Madia. When Madia, a Democrat, ran for Congress in 2008, Winton served as his treasurer.

The polls all showed a tight race. But Madia lost by more than seven percentage points to Republican candidate Erik Paulsen.

Winton said the campaign should have done a better job of responding to attack ads from groups supporting Paulsen.

“And the lesson for me is, in politics, if somebody flicks you in the arm, you break their nose,” Winton said.

It’s a lesson he’s carried into his current campaign. Winton isn’t afraid to throw the first punch in a debate, either.

“When Jackie Cherryhomes was on the City Council, the City Council racked up a lot of debt,” he said during a debate at the Minneapolis Club last month. “Then along came Betsy [Hodges] and Don [Samuels], good folks, but they spent like sailors on shore leave, robbing taxpayers blind while spending money on things we didn’t need and can’t afford, and then, along comes Mark [Andrew]…”

The litany of attacks continued for a solid minute. Few candidates were spared. Winton also ended with a parting shot at the council members he is running against.

“As a Minneapolis homeowner, taxpayer, husband, father, employee of a company, I scratch my head in befuddlement at why we would want to elect the same people to keep doing the same things over and over again,” he said.

It’s been more than 60 years since Minneapolis elected a Republican mayor — something Winton is keenly aware of.

The word “Republican” won’t appear under his name on the ballot. Instead, he will be described as “Independent Responsible Inclusive.”

Cody Nelson contributed to this report.

AGE: 34


• 2012 to present: Senior counsel, Duke Energy
• 2009 to 2012: vice president and general counsel, Outland Energy Services
• 2006 to 2009: associate, Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi

KEY ENDORSEMENTS: Former DFL congressional candidate Ashwin Madia, former Target CEO Bob Ulrich, former City Councilman Dennis Schulstad

WEBSITE: wintonformayor.org