Minneapolis voters reshape City Council

Somali American Abdi Warsame. (MPR File Photo/Jennifer Simonson)

Minneapolis voters unseated three incumbent City Council members in Tuesday’s elections, guaranteeing that a majority of the 13-member council will be new members.

Abdi Warsame defeated incumbent Robert Lilligren in the 6th Ward to become the first person of Somali descent to hold municipal office in the United States.

Warsame had 63 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website. After winning the DFL endorsement in April, Warsame worked hard to mobilize the East African community in the ward.

“He’s kind of our kind of person because we’re in the middle of a Somali community here and I think he’d be a really interesting representative for the City Council,” said voter Maggie Catambay, who lives in Riverside Plaza in Cedar-Riverside. “It’s good to have good people on the City Council.”

In Ward 3, newcomer Jacob Frey defeated incumbent Diane Hofstede. At an election party at Elsie’s Restaurant and Bar in northeast Minneapolis, Frey said the upsets of incumbents on the council represent the emergence of a new Minneapolis.

“There is a group of people, whether within the DFL Party or in the city as a whole, that have controlled stuff for quite a long time,” Frey said. “What I’m proud of that our campaign has done is we’ve broken that mold — we’ve moved beyond the politics as usual.”

Frey, who was endorsed by the DFL Party, pointed to Warsame’s win as an example of demographic changes in the city.

“We’re seeing that in new Americans getting involved for the first time; we’re seeing that in young professionals getting involved for the first time,” Frey said. “We’re seeing that in the recognition that living amongst people who don’t look just like yourself is a damn good thing — and that may not have always been the case.”

At Bryant-Lake Bowl in south Minneapolis, supporters of Lisa Bender celebrated her victory over incumbent Meg Tuthill in Ward 10. Bender said the new blood on the City Council will help the city find creative solutions to big problems.

“There’s been so much talk about the inequities that we see in health and education and jobs, and I think we’ll be able to really work together to take on some of those big citywide issues,” said Bender, also a Democrat. “I hope we’ll see an end to the more ward-centric approach and more of a focus on working together to solve those big citywide issues.”

Bender, who gave birth to a daughter three weeks ago, said her newborn has been her campaigning companion since she was three days old.

“We didn’t take any neighborhood for granted; we didn’t take any group of people for granted,” Bender said. “We talked to everyone, of all ages, of every community. We talked to renters and homeowners alike, and I’m so excited to continue to engage everyone in our ward when I serve on the City Council.”

Warsame, Frey and Bender will join four other new council members from wards where there was no incumbent running.

Other City Council races where no one earned more than 50 percent of the vote will move to the second round in the ranked-choice voting system.

In a hard-fought and sometimes contentious campaign on Minneapolis’ south side, DFL-endorsed candidate Alondra Cano was the first choice of 40 percent of voters. Socialist Alternative candidate Ty Moore followed closely behind with 37 percent of the first vote. If Cano wins, she will be the first Latina to serve on the Minneapolis City Council.

Powderhorn resident Maria Kaefer said she supported Cano because she believes Cano is a consensus builder. But Kaefer was unhappy with the rhetoric and “personal attacks” between the two main candidates.

“Once the election is over everyone has to work together, and we’re all in it together, and we need to make the city work and we need to move things forward,” Kaefer said. “I think olive branches are going to need to be extended for whoever wins to be able to govern effectively.”

Hayley Gonzalez said she voted for Moore because of his support for increasing the minimum wage.

It’s a tight race in the 5th Ward in north Minneapolis, where DFLer Blong Yang was the first choice of 40 percent of voters. He was closely trailed by two other Democrats, Ian Alexander and Brett Buckner. The DFL Party did not endorse anyone in the four-candidate race.

Yang said he expects election officials to start tabulating voters’ second or third choices in the undecided council races once the mayoral race has been resolved.

“We celebrated — but I think we were a bit cautious about celebrating too,” Yang said.

Wendy Jerome, an election judge at Phyllis Wheatley Community Center in north Minneapolis, said voters at her precinct didn’t encounter problems using the ranked-choice voting system.

“It really hasn’t slowed down our wait today, people have been very quick to catch on,” Jerome said. “It’s good and I’m proud of these Minnesotans.”

There is also a very tight contest for the Ward 13 seat vacated by City Council member Betsy Hodges, who is leading the mayor’s race DFL-endorsed candidate Linea Palmisano was leading Democrat Matt Perry by nearly 4 percent. But Perry was the second choice of slightly more people than Palmisano, which could shake up the race as election officials tabulate voters’ second or third choices.

Council members John Quincy, Cam Gordon, Barbara Johnson, Lisa Goodman, Elizabeth Glidden and Kevin Reich were all re-elected.

In a statement released early today, city officials said the results of the mayoral contest are expected later in the day. All City Council and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board races should be decided by Friday.