Defeated Minneapolis councilwoman: ‘A sense of anti-incumbency’

Two-term Minneapolis City Council member Diane Hofstede says voters favored fresh candidates over experience in Tuesday’s election. Hofstede was defeated by first-time candidate Jacob Frey, 32.

“There was a sense of anti-incumbency,” Hofstede said. “I really felt that there was a strong focus on youth versus abilities. And that seemed to be a strong point in the information that was conveyed during the campaign.”

Hoftstede is one of three Minneapolis City Council incumbents were defeated by younger first-time candidates in this year’s race.

Abdi Warsame, 35, beat incumbent Robert Lilligren in the Sixth Ward, and Lisa Bender, 35, defeated first-term council member Meg Tuthill in Uptown’s Tenth Ward.

Hofstede represented the Third Ward, which includes southeast Minneapolis and University of Minnesota neighborhoods, northeast Minneapolis and the North Loop.

Hofstede said during the campaign, negative campaigning by her opponent, particularly through social media, took aim at her accomplishments and record.

“I think part of it might be the fact that I was portrayed as being ineffective and not having an effective record may have been part of the reason,” Hofstede said.  “That’s just politics. It’s just the way it is.”

But FairVote Minnesota’s Josh Nussbaum says he didn’t think any of the Minneapolis campaigns were negative. The organization has long-advocated for ranked choice voting, and Nussbaum managed its educational campaign on the voting system.

He said the fact that ranked choice voting allowed candidates to ask voters for second or third choice votes made them less inclined to attack someone’s first choice vote.

“I think this is one of the most positive major political campaigns I’ve ever experienced,” Nussbaum said. “I think that spoke for itself. I think that we advocated for just giving people more choice and more power.”

Hofstede believes hindered access to constituents also hurt her campaign. Because of redistricting, her ward included new neighborhoods — including some she had a hard time campaigning in. By state law, she had the right to enter a building and distribute literature, but wasn’t allowed to have conversations with people, she said.

“It made it difficult to campaign when the only thing you can do is leave a piece of literature, versus have a conversation with a constituent,” Hofstede said.

Hofstede’s opponent cited personal conversations as key to his win.

“We knew every person in the ward, we knew what their dog’s name was, we knew if they had a birthday recently,” said Frey after learning of his victory. “And when you really get to know people at that very grassroots level, and create a relationship with them, I think that’s how politics is done best.”

Regardless of the outcome, Hofstede says the work done by the incumbents shouldn’t be forgotten, and should be used to build more opportunities for the city.

“I think that’s very important going forward,” she said. “That the momentum continues.”

Since she took office in 2006, Hofstede’s top priority was public safety. She hopes future city council members carry on that priority, and maintain commitment to public safety as a number of officers plan to retire in the near future.

In her eight years in office, Hofstede said her priorities were in line with the city’s changing demographics, as city residents became younger and more ethnically diverse.

She said for the first time, she created a formal relationship between the city and the University of Minnesota and young people through the University District Alliance. Out of that relationship, she worked on negotiating with the University as part of the TCF Bank Stadium project to create the Good Neighbor Fund, that made more than $1 million available to university neighborhoods to determine how those dollars can be used to improve the area.

She is also proud of her work with the Pillsbury A-Mill along the Mississippi River, for which a groundbreaking will take place next week. The mill will be renovated to create 250 affordable housing units, including art space and performing space.

And in north Minneapolis, she orchestrated a plan to create 100 green homes through an initiative to build sustainable homes in the area, as a result of her work with Project for Pride for Living.

“If you look around the ward, I’ve built a great deal of affordable housing every part of the ward,” Hofstede said. “And transit has been a major focus.”

During her time in office, she said she created 2,000 units of sustainable housing “during the worst economic times in our history.”

“So, I’m very proud of my record, and very proud of the support and the relationships that I developed,” Hofstede said. “But each time you make a decision of course, you have people who may not agree with you.”

Much of her work focused on the riverfront, she said. She created the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership. In planning the new Lowry Avenue bridge and Plymouth Avenue bridge, she advocated for pedestrian and bike lanes.  Roads and bikeways attracted young people, she said.

“One of the comments I remember early on, was that the ward was separated by the river,” Hofstede said. “And what I began to talk about is that the riverfront was not something that divided us, it was something that we had in common. And so I used that as a means to focus, especially in north Minneapolis, that their boundaries did not end at a freeway, that their boundaries ended at the third greatest river front in the world.”

Going forward, Hofstede said she hopes that now that the city is in better financial shape, more initiatives will be pursued.

“The last eight years have been difficult. Because we haven’t had the level of funding that was necessary to be able to maintain some of our initiatives,” said Hofstede, who serves on the city’s Ways and Means Budget Committee.  “This is the first year out of that eight years that we have been able to look at new initiatives and really consider them.”

She said local government aid and legislation helped the city get back on its feet, especially at a time when some cities across the nation were going bankrupt.

“When you think about how difficult these eight years were, it’s a miracle that we actually were able to accomplish what we did,” Hofstede said.  “And that is a true testament to everyone that is on the council…And I know there are some decisions that made people uncomfortable, but the reality is, in order to grow, you have to take risks. You have to be able to push the envelope forward.”