More than $1.8 million has poured into the Minneapolis mayoral race through Oct. 26, according to campaign finance reports released Tuesday, as a field of well-funded challengers works to unseat Mayor Betsy Hodges with the election a week away.
There is no clear front-runner in the hotly contested race, which has been unpredictable because of ranked-choice voting and little voter polling.
The top fundraiser for the reporting period and the year was Council Member Jacob Frey, who attracted $131,815 between Aug. 1 and Oct. 26, and has collected $492,000 in donations for the year, including a $10,000 loan to himself, with significant investment from downtown business interests, developers and restaurateurs.
Tom Hoch, former head of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, raised $123,000 after Aug. 1 but also loaned himself $226,000. The candidate’s campaign reported raising $791,000 this year, but more than half of that — $462,000 — came from Hoch’s loans to fund his own run for office.
Hodges, who fell behind Frey and Hoch in earlier reporting periods, moved into the final stretch of the campaign with a strong round of fundraising, adding $115,000 in new donations after Aug. 1. She has raised $396,000 for the year with the backing of a collection of educators, health care professionals and attorneys. Her fundraising total includes $98,700 that she loaned herself.
State Rep. Ray Dehn and Nekima Levy-Pounds, candidates with popular support but far less money, have raised $107,000 and $46,000 respectively for the year. Dehn’s fundraising total includes $15,000 he loaned himself.
The five candidates are among 16 people running for mayor in a race that’s been defined by calls for police reform, better public safety downtown and greater efforts to narrow the economic gaps between white people and people of color.
Hoch and Frey — who both have raised more money than Mark Andrew, the top fundraiser in the last mayoral race in 2013 — have spent heavily on mailers and television advertising. Hodges and Dehn have spent almost exclusively on campaign staff, and Levy-Pounds’ largest expenditures were for advertising, campaign literature and lawn signs.
Campaign finance reports showed that the Minneapolis Works political action committee (PAC), a downtown business-backed group that has focused its energy on City Council races and was blasted over the weekend by DFL state legislators as “right wing money,” has raised $111,000. Nearly three-fifths of the group’s funding — $60,000 — came from Jim Lawrence, a former General Mills and Northwest Airlines executive who is a Democrat and gave $1 million in 2016 to Forward for a Better Future, a super PAC devoted to electing Hillary Clinton as president.
Minneapolis Works also received donations from three unions — the Laborers District Council, Engineers Local 49 and the Sheet Metal Workers, campaign finance reports showed.
Money for council races
City Council races have been colored in recent weeks by new attention to the money pouring into some of the most competitive contests.
In the Third Ward, where candidates are vying for Frey’s open council seat, Socialist Alternative candidate Ginger Jentzen has pledged not to take PAC money. Within the last week, she’s been the subject of mailers funded by Minneapolis Works that describe her policy ideas as “nuts” and “dangerous.”
But among City Council campaign finance reports available Tuesday, Jentzen’s team reported the largest fundraising haul — nearly $97,000 — and nearly $58,000 in cash on hand.
Seventh Ward Council Member Lisa Goodman, the fundraising leader when the first round of reports was released this summer, raised about $31,000 and has nearly $133,000 in cash on hand. Her opponent, Janne Flisrand, raised $18,571 and has $21,160 on hand.
Much of Jentzen’s support for the Third Ward seat has come in small donations from cities as far away as New York and San Francisco. She said the out-of-state support shows her platform, which includes a call for rent control, is resonating broadly with voters who supported U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and are worried by the policies of President Donald Trump.
“I think people are really looking for ways to fight back,” Jentzen said.
In 2013, Socialist Ty Moore outraised his opponents in the Ninth Ward council race, partly on the strength of out-of-state donations, but lost to DFL-endorsed contender Alondra Cano in the election.
Third Ward candidate Tim Bildsoe, a former Plymouth City Council member, reported more than $36,000 in donations, including money from the Minneapolis Downtown Council PAC.
Also in the Third Ward, DFL-endorsed candidate Steve Fletcher raised about $21,000 from donors, including DFL heavyweights Sam and Sylvia Kaplan, former state Rep. Phyllis Kahn and the campaigns of Council Members Lisa Bender and Linea Palmisano.
Several more council candidates’ reports should be posted to the Hennepin County website on Wednesday. The election is Nov. 7.