Who's in the race? A guide to the six candidates for Minneapolis mayor

image by Tatiana Craine
In the three months since R.T. Rybak announced he wouldn't seek a fourth term as mayor of Minneapolis, a full cast of characters has emerged to vie for his seat in City Hall. There are the three City Council Members with their history of competition and split votes. There's the sole non-DFL candidate (he is active in the Republican party, he explains, but not seeking any party endorsement in the non-partisan race). There's the handful of retired politicos coming back to throw their hats into the ring again, and the handful still mulling that hat-throwing while their names churn the rumor mill.

Like any good characters, these wannabe mayors also have their dramas. Sample: The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the U of M hosted five of the declared candidates in a debate last Wednesday, but only allowed those gunning for DFL endorsement to participate -- a policy that shut out the aforementioned independent, Cam Winton.

That dispute means that tonight's 6:30 forum, hosted by the Minneapolis League of Women Voters at Solomon's Porch, is the first time all six so far-candidates will meet to spar (a seventh has filed, but stayed mum). Get some popcorn. Here's what you'll need to know.

See Also:
- Gary Schiff files for mayoral run, kicks off with a fundraiser at Dangerous Man Brewing Co.
- Betsy Hodges names former DFL exec Andrew O'Leary as campaign manager for mayoral run
- Don Samuels announces bid for mayor

After serving as Hennepin County Commissioner for 16 years, from 1983 to 1999, Mark Andrew left the public sector to lead Greenmark, an environmental consulting firm that counts the Minnesota Twins and the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport among its clients. Three months ago, Andrew says, he didn't think he'd be running for mayor. What changed his mind? "I saw good people in the field," Andrew explains. "But I didn't see anybody who had the right skills."

Best zinger in the first debate: From his place at the end of the row of candidates: "It's a little unusual for me to be sitting at the far right of my colleagues." And later: "That stadium is going to be a jobs machine. As mayor it would be lunacy to want to preside over a hole in the ground. It is utterly inconsistent for anyone running for mayor to say they're for job creation and then say they're against stadiums because they don't want to subsidize a billionaire."

Where he lives: Southwest.

One success he wants voters to know about: "There are several things I'm most proud of. I'm not going to give you the recycling program, but I did create Minneapolis's recycling program. As a private business person, I also created the Minnesota Twins's rainwater recycling system at Target Field. But I think the thing I'm most proud of is that I am the person who put together the Midtown Greenway, and I was very deeply involved in its development. I put the coalition together, I bought the land, I worked with the park group and a neighborhood group called the Midtown Greenway Coalition. Nobody was able to put it together until I came up with the money."

Biggest surprise on the campaign trail so far: "How fundraising has changed. This is my sixth campaign, but I have not waged a campaign in over a decade, and the intensity of fundraising expectations is much greater. I always think fundraising has a corrosive effect on civil discourse. It takes away from constructive engagement with voters, and forces every candidate into basically shaking people down for money."

Prior to joining the Minneapolis City Council in 2001, Gary Schiff studied at the U of M and co-authored the 1997 city charter amendment that calls for a voter referendum before the city subsidizes a pro sports stadium. In his 12 years representing Ward 9 -- which includes the Phillips, Longfellow, Corcoran, and Powderhorn neighborhoods -- Schiff has advocated for regulatory reform and small businesses.

Biggest surprise on the campaign trail: "That I like it more than I thought I would. Running for mayor is different than running for City Council. I get to talk about the substantial issues that are holding back Minneapolis's greatness. The neighborhoods that I've represented on the City Council were hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, by the recession. People lost their homes and are now living in apartment buildings; people that were in apartment buildings are now living in shelters. As a City Council member I can talk about how to be part of a team that addresses those issues, but as mayor you can really focus attention on poverty and really focus attention on helping small businesses create jobs. That's what I like about the campaign, that I'm getting to talk about the issues that are really important."

His neighborhood: Corcoran.

One success he wants voters to know about: "Helping entrepreneurs open businesses by cutting regulations that would have prevented it. So when Jason Sowards [of Harriet Brewing] called me three years ago and wanted to open a microbrewery, we had rules on the books that made it impossible. The rules said, sure, you can make beer, as long as you also operate a restaurant, and you make sure that no more than 60 percent of your sales are in alcohol. In other words, you can make beer as long as you go out of business really quickly and lose your shirt. That's why Surly didn't open in Minneapolis, they opened in Brooklyn Center. That's why Fulton Beer started up in the Fulton neighborhood but operated their facility in Wisconsin. And so it took a year and a half, three rounds of changes to Minneapolis ordinances, and finally now Fulton moved back from Wisconsin, we have seven microbreweries, two more on the way, and it wasn't accomplished with subsidies, it wasn't done through corporate welfare, it was done through getting rid of rules that don't make sense anymore. We have to comprehensively reevaluate our rules on small businesses for the first time since 1963 and completely overhaul our regulatory codes to make it simpler and easier for businesses to grow in Minneapolis."

Attorney Cam Winton is active in the Republican party, but says that voters shouldn't pigeon-hole him. "I vigorously support marriage equality -- I co-hosted a fundraiser for the Vote No campaign and I work in the wind power industry," Winton explains. "Half of the time I drive around in a Prius with a Vote No sticker on it. I'm an open book."

One success he wants voters to know about: "My co-workers and I built a wind turbine management company with 120 employees. When we sold it in late 2012, we did the deal in a way where all 120 employees kept their jobs and all 120 employees received payouts on the equity that they had in the company."

Mayoral to-do list: "My first priority as mayor will be delivering essential services effectively. To me, those are police, fire, road paving and road clearing. They're the things that we take for granted until we really need them or until they don't work. There are a lot of things that need to happen to keep our streets safe, and one of those is more jobs, but another is to have a fully staffed police department. The benchmark for an American city of our size is to have 2.5 cops for every 1,000 citizens, and so we should have 975 cops. We only have 850."

Biggest surprise on the campaign trail: "Well, I'm saying this with a smile, but people share all kinds of information with you when you're a political candidate."

His neighborhood: Fulton.

Best zinger in the first debate: Winton was not included in last week's debate for candidates seeking DFL endorsement. "I fought to be on that stage. It was a lot of agreeing with each other, and that's alright, but the time is past for us to all be agreeing with each other."

Head to page two for the second half of the candidates.

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