In Minneapolis election, big money didn’t translate to political power

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When the dust settled after Minneapolis’ Nov. 7 city election, local business interests spent a lot of money to defend it, but progressives on the City Council took the majority away from the middle class.

Two key political funds – the central All Mpls And more progressive Minneapolis for many – They emerged as messengers for the factions that came to dominate the city’s politics.

Leading up to this year’s election, All of Amples raised nearly $900,000, more than four times what they brought in during the same period for many in Minneapolis. But for the most part, that fundraising success hasn’t translated into big wins on Election Day.

All five incumbents—Michael Rainville, Latrisha Vetau, Andrea Jenkins, Emily Koski and Linnea Palmisano—won re-election, while the three newcomers he endorsed lost their races.

Meanwhile, for most of the candidates, four of the five in Minneapolis (Jeremiah Ellison, Orin Chaudhury, Katie Cashman and Aisha Chughtai) won the election. A fifth — newcomer Soren Stevenson — came just 38 votes short of two-term Council President Jenkins to become Mayor Jacob Frey’s key ally. In the end, it was enough for progressive candidates. Hold a majority of seven seatsIt could sway future council decisions on big issues like rent control and police funding.

Chelsea McFarren, a former city employee who founded Minneapolis for the Many this year, believes the messaging from candidates aligned with the rival middle class is focused on “fear mongering” and “divisive thinking” — and she says voters were looking for something. More optimism.

“People want candidates who have hope and a vision for our community,” McFarren said.

All Mpls Chairwoman Karin Birkeland, a retired attorney involved with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, disagreed.

“We’re excited for Minneapolis to have a bright, healthy and safe future for people to live and work in, and I wouldn’t say that’s a policy or belief based on fear,” she said.

Birkeland this year the number of people who participated was low; Less than 32% of registered voters in Minneapolis this year compared to 54% in 2021, when council seats are on the ballot with mayoral races, contentious ballot measures and other races.

Fighting teams

It’s not yet clear how the new House majority will set the policymaking agenda in Minneapolis. But the progressive team’s success is a marked change from two years ago.

All Mpls was formed that year to re-elect Frey and support a ballot measure that would replace the police department with the city’s charter public safety department.

The supporters were worried that the national funds were pouring money Yes 4 MinneapolisThe campaign to fuel the police vote reform, Birkland said.

“It was a fantastic position to save the police at a time of rising crime and terrible chaos in our city,” she said. “It was very, very scary for a lot of us that money was coming in from all over the country.”

After voters rejected the ballot measure, All Mpls turned to other efforts, spending nearly $14,000 to help Ryan Winkler’s unsuccessful bid for Hennepin County attorney in 2022. For this year’s election, he has endorsed deep-seated council candidates aligned with the mayor.

The new Minneapolis for Many was formed this year by McFarren, who previously oversaw the city’s homeless encampment response team — and disagreed with the way sanitation services are being denied from encampments and the police closing them down. She was eventually fired, and turned her attention to a new goal: helping elect a more progressive council.

The committee’s founding treasurer is Luke Mielke, a member of the Twins chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, which — along with the DFL — has endorsed several Minneapolis candidates.

Who spent the money?

Kathryn Pearson, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota, said $900,000 from one group in a low-representatives election is a lot of money. And in such an off-year election, contributions to all candidates totaling little more than $1 million, she said, could have a bigger impact.

“Political science research doesn’t necessarily show that money buys votes, but it does show that money buys politicians,” Pearson said.

This election season, there have been accusations of “outside” — or non-local — donors to many of the Maples and Minneapolis. While only city residents can vote in municipal elections, campaign funds can come from anywhere. Most of the donors were local: 79% of Mpls’ announced donors were Minneapolis residents, while many others were suburbanites who did business in the city. For most donors, 81% of Minneapolis residents live in Minneapolis.

Mpls’ largest donors were the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, which gave $150,000, and the Bloomington-based Minnesota Multi-Housing Association, a landlord group, which gave $90,000.

“We’ve taken a much more active role in Minneapolis over the last three election cycles, especially with funding and involvement in the election process,” said Chamber CEO Jonathan Weinhagen. “The policy decisions being made at the local level are having a huge impact on our ability to grow business here.”

Among the biggest contributors in Minneapolis were the Massachusetts-based campaign voter PAC (National Democratic Action Clearing House), which gave $60,000, and the St. Paul-based faith in Minnesota, the political arm of progressive religious group ISAIAH, gave $40,000.

In the year ISAIAH spokesman Janay’ Bates, who led the 2021 Yes 4 Minneapolis rally, said “defunding the police” was not an issue that motivated voters this year. Instead, the progressive candidates they supported talked about the climate, rents, wages and infrastructure.

“What Faith does and is doing in Minnesota is really organizing in places where real people … live,” she said.

No single council candidate has raised as much money for as many political groups as All of Amples and Minneapolis. But on average, the individual campaigns of centrists aligned with MPLS outpaced the growth of many aligned with Minneapolis.

It is unclear whether the two groups will seek a rematch in the next assembly elections in 2025. McFarren said she will remain involved in local politics until a new mayor is in place. Birkeland said that all Mpls have not yet decided to participate in future elections.

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