Policing and public safety will undoubtedly be major issues in Minneapolis city elections this year. The George Floyd murder, demonstrations around social and racial justice, and the increase in violent crime have put law enforcement front and center among citizen concerns.
Last week's DFL endorsements in Minneapolis City Council races offered conflicting results, although some positive signs for those — such as the Star Tribune Editorial Board — who believe that the city needs a strong, efficiently managed and thoughtfully reformed police department.
While most of the candidates favor necessary reforms in MPD operations — as does the Editorial Board — some support defunding or even eliminating MPD to create a department of public safety whose structure and focus is yet to be defined.
Last year, after Floyd's death, a majority of incumbents had pledged to "dismantle" MPD. Some chose not to seek re-election, two of them won endorsement, while the other wards saw no endorsement or had challengers receive more votes to gain the party nod.
One of the three incumbents who did not sign the ill-advised "dismantle" pledge, Kevin Reich (First Ward), lost by a large margin to anti-MPD newcomer Elliot Payne, who received nearly 80% of the ward's vote. And Jason Chavez (Ninth Ward), who won endorsement for an open seat, would dismantle the department in favor of another public safety model.
Yet three incumbents who did sign the pledge — Jeremiah Ellison (Fifth Ward), Steve Fletcher (Third Ward) and Jeremy Schroeder (11th Ward) — could not win the party's endorsement. And challengers Victor Martinez (Fifth Ward) and Emily Koski (11th Ward) won more votes than their opponents.
Of the five incumbent members who did receive endorsement — Phillipe Cunningham (Fourth Ward), Lisa Goodman (Seventh Ward), Andrea Jenkins (Eighth Ward), Andrew Johnson (12th Ward) and Linea Palmisano (13th Ward) — Goodman and Palmisano are considered more moderate on policing, Cunningham favors defunding MPD, and Jenkins and Johnson have been more unpredictable in votes on police issues.
There were no endorsements in six wards — the Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth, 10th and 11th — because none of the candidates was able to secure the needed 60% of the vote. (And in the 10th and Ninth Wards, incumbents Lisa Bender and Alondra Cano are not running again.) The high number of no endorsements could be an indication of some unhappiness with the way the majority of the current council governs.
According to Minneapolis DFL figures, between June 2 and June 8 over 4,800 DFL delegates voted in City Council endorsement contests. That's more than double the turnout of 2017, the last city election year. Because of COVID protocols, delegates were able to participate from the comfort of home, with most taking less than 10 minutes to vote.
With the highly mixed endorsement results, it's tough to make broad generalizations about what the next City Council will look like. The candidate lineup will be finalized after the Aug. 10 filing deadline, when campaigning will ramp up even more. The Star Tribune Editorial Board will be doing its own research and candidate interviews and making endorsements this fall.
In the meantime, we urge Minneapolis voters to attend candidate forums — virtually or in-person — to do their own analysis. This is not a time for complacency: A lot is riding on what the next City Council will do.