For the first time in Minneapolis history, the majority of the City Council will be made up of people of color, results of ranked-choice voting tallies showed Wednesday.
Voters ushered in a slate of seven new members along with six incumbents and an eclectic mix of perspectives about a year and a half after the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd ignited a global racial reckoning.
A grueling election season saw 58 candidates compete for the 13 City Council seats. Eight winners scored enough first-choice votes for decisive victories in the first round.
Five were incumbents, including Andrea Jenkins of the Eighth Ward, and Andrew Johnson of the 12th Ward, who both stood on a Powderhorn Park stage with a sign declaring "Defund Police" last summer. It was a precursor to a ballot question that voters rejected Tuesday to replace the Police Department with a Department of Public Safety.
Lisa Goodman of the Seventh Ward and Linea Palmisano of the 13th Ward didn't pledge to dismantle police, and subsequently defended the police budget against a majority of colleagues who sought to move resources out of the department and into public health alternatives. They were also re-elected.
Johnson acknowledged that many constituents did not vote for him because of his position on policing. He said he believes south Minneapolis voters re-elected him anyway because of his willingness to compromise.
"You can't put me in a box and sometimes that really frustrates people because they want me to vote 100 percent of the time for what they think is their side," he said. "But at the end of the day, my job is about making the best decision I can on each issue."
Jamal Osman of the Sixth Ward, who was elected in a special election just over a year ago, also won a second term.
Newcomers LaTrisha Vetaw of the Fourth Ward and Emily Koski of the 11th Ward racked landslide wins against incumbents Phillipe Cunningham and Jeremy Schroeder. Both challengers explicitly called for reforming the Police Department by investing more into it.
"When you talk about safety, we're most affected over here," Vetaw said. "You're gonna raise your voice to something, it better be that for sure. … This past year, it was just so hard for everyone, so heavy."
Jason Chavez, a strong proponent of defunding the police who also emphasized the Ninth Ward's need for relief from gun violence, won handily in a crowded open race. Chavez said he will build relationships with all of his colleagues to ensure the historically marginalized ward receives the resources it needs to rebuild from last year's civil unrest.
Results for contests in more competitive districts rolled in Wednesday afternoon following additional rounds of ranked-choice voting tabulation. Elliott Payne of the First Ward, Robin Wonsley Worlobah of the Second Ward and Michael Rainville of the Third Ward won hard-fought races to unseat incumbents Kevin Reich, Cam Gordon and Steve Fletcher. Payne and Worlobah, the council's first Democratic Socialist, ran on bringing transformative changes to policing and expressed disappointment at the failure of the public safety ballot measure.
"The University of Minnesota, all the students, they didn't know that they had a voice in local elections, and we literally said, 'Guess what, you can actually take on the corporate developers, help us cap rents. You can actually help us make sure that not another person has the same fate as George Floyd and help us champion new measures to create a democratic structure of public safety,' " said Worlobah, who won over Yusra Arab to take Gordon's seat by just 19 votes. "Folks showed up for that."
Rainville had campaigned on a different ideology of public safety, calling for improving police working conditions through more time off and programs that would help officers build community relationships.
"My life experience has taught me how to compromise, how to listen and how to literally close the deal," he said. "I look forward to working with that diverse new group of people."
Incumbent Jeremiah Ellison survived with a narrow victory against six opponents, expressing bittersweet gratitude that the Fifth Ward gave him a second chance despite challengers' criticism of how he has handled increased gun violence on the North Side.
"We were up against a lot of fear, not a lot of hope in this campaign season, and I knew that my neighbors were capable of envisioning a better future," Ellison said. "I'm definitely not excited to see some of my hardest-working colleagues go."
Aisha Chughtai, who won the contentious race for the open 10th Ward seat that will be vacated by Council President Lisa Bender, said she was "shocked" to emerge victorious despite leading the pack in fundraising.
"I am excited to figure out what working with my new colleagues will look like in a structure that is going to be new to all of us," she said."
The new council will be tempered by voters' approval of a measure that will put re-elected Mayor Jacob Frey solely in charge of chartered city departments.
Susan Du • 612-673-4028