As one of just a few Republicans running for City Council this year, Joe Kovacs understands it can be tough going for a conservative candidate in liberal-leaning Minneapolis, describing his campaign to unseat the Ward 7 incumbent, Lisa Goodman, as a “David-versus-Goliath” contest.
The challenge for Kovacs, 26, isn’t just about running from the right at a time when a slew of progressive candidates are pushing election-year politics to the left. He’s also taking on an incumbent who has won re-election four times and is one of the Council’s top fundraisers, with more than $130,000 available for her 2017 campaign, according to an end-of-year filing with the county.
Kovacs, who works as a training specialist for a software company, said Minneapolis deserves a wider array of views on its 13-member City Council, which currently consists of a dozen DFLers and one Green. He is planning to seek the GOP endorsement.
“That’s what democracy is all about: differing opinions,” he said.
Originally from White Bear Lake, Kovacs moved to downtown Minneapolis with his wife about a year ago. He plans an official campaign launch next month, after he and his wife return from a European vacation.
“I really see City Council as an area where I can serve,” he said. “That’s part of my Christian faith, as well.”
Asked to describe his top priorities if elected, Kovacs touched first on housing. He said he would focus on finding long-term solutions to homelessness and work to add affordable housing in the city, possibly by promoting the development of vacant lots.
“I really want to provide Ward 7 and Minneapolis as a whole the tools and opportunities to make upward mobility a reality,” he said.
Kovacs said he would push for the city to offer trade school vouchers or partner with local technical colleges on training programs. He opposed raising the Minneapolis minimum wage to $15, which “could do harm to the city and drive businesses away,” he said.
Kovacs turned next to the city’s infrastructure — specifically skyways. He said the downtown skyway system was in need of a “facelift,” especially with the Super Bowl coming to town in 2018, and suggested the city could provide resources for property owners to update signage or make other improvements.
The Downtown West resident is the second candidate to announce a challenge to Goodman. Janne Flisrand, a consultant and Lowry Hill apartment building owner, leapt into the campaign last fall and fought Goodman to a draw at the DFL’s Ward 7 convention. The April 22 convention closed without an endorsement in the race.
Kovacs said he had just begun networking with the other Republican candidates for city office in April, including mayoral candidate Jonathan Honerbrink. Honerbrink recently posted a photo to his Twitter account of himself, Kovacs, Ward 3 candidate Nick “L.A. Nik” Pilotta and Ward 6 candidate Fadumo Yusuf, who attracted the attention of the New York Times as a rare Trump supporter among the local Somali immigrant community. The message attached to Honerbrink’s tweet described the four candidates as the “common sense Minneapolis team.”
“I want to be a message of hope, more than anything,” Kovacs said. “In politics, especially today, we hear a lot of negativity and attacking of individuals.”