Jacob Frey, who led in first-choice votes on election night, was declared the unofficial winner of the 2017 mayoral contest Wednesday.
Frey appeared to have a strong chance of winning, but it took five rounds of counting second- and third-choice votes to push him past the margin of victory. The results arrived around 2 p.m. the day after Election Day.
Frey praised the other mayoral candidates in comments delivered at his campaign headquarters and said it was time to heal the wounds of a tough campaign.
“Moving forward, item no. 1 on the docket is to start uniting,” he said.
Frey, 36, defeated Mayor Betsy Hodges and 14 other candidates. He ran on a “fresh start” for Minneapolis, pledging to tackle and affordable housing crisis and move ahead on police reforms.
Hodges congratulated Frey on his victory.
“I told him that I know he loves Minneapolis and that I am committed to a smooth transition,” she wrote in a statement.
This was the third city election to use ranked-choice voting, in which voters were allowed to rank a first, second a third choice for each office. As candidates with too few first-choice votes are eliminated during successive rounds of counting, the second and third choice votes on those ballots are reallocated to other candidates.
State Rep. Raymond Dehn, whose district includes parts of North and Downtown, was the final challenger standing. The fifth round of tabulation eliminated Hodges, and the reapportionment of those ballots pushed Frey over the edge.
The winner needed 52,262 of the 104,522 votes cast in the race to take the mayor’s office. Frey finished with 54,064.
Frey won 26,116 first-choice votes, nearly 25 percent of the total and the most of any candidate. Other top finishers included Tom Hoch, the former Hennepin Theater Trust president and CEO, and attorney-activist Nekima Levy-Pounds.
Before the final tally was released, there was some speculation that Hodges could eke out a victory if she was the second or third choice on ballots that placed Dehn or Levy-Pounds first. Ward 13 City Council Member Linea Palmisano, who endorsed Frey less than a week before the election, said that assumption reflected chatter on social media, not the reality on the streets.
“I was surprised to find that it seemed that Betsy Hodges’ team truly felt that votes for Ray Dehn, Nekima Levy-Pounds would roll up to her. That wasn’t my experience in speaking with people before the election, and not just in Southwest Minneapolis,” she said. “… I was not hearing those votes were against Jacob Frey — or Tom Hoch for that matter.”
During the campaign, Frey fought against a narrative that portrayed him as less progressive than Dehn, Levy-Pounds or Hodges — a potential weakness in a year when the electorate pushed the City Council to the left. In a closing argument delivered to supporters on Nov. 3, Frey framed his willingness to seek compromise and listen to opposing views as strengths.
“People said we were too young, too ambitious and not from here,” he added during his post-election press conference. “They also attacked us because we weren’t willing to take an ideological purist position on every single issue, but it’s our position that that’s not the right way to run a city.”
Palmisano said some critics attempted “to paint Jacob Frey as in the pockets of developers and other kinds of money” when, in her view, many candidates tapped those same sources but were outmatched by Frey’s fundraising prowess.
“I’m really concerned about the future of the Minneapolis DFL and the future of us as a party,” she said. “These races were pretty nasty, and how do we heal that?”
For some voters, Frey’s youth and enthusiasm harkened back to R.T. Rybak, who won mayoral contests in 2001, 2005 and 2009.
Don Quirk, a voter who lives in a Downtown precinct of Ward 7, ranked Hoch and Frey on his ballot, although he couldn’t remember in which order just moments after leaving his polling place inside Westminster Presbyterian Church. He said he had no strong preference for one or the other and didn’t rank a third choice.
Quirk said his top priority was “keeping Minneapolis growing and economically vibrant.”
“I think I’m looking for someone more like R.T. Rybak,” he said.
Quirk said he agreed with Hodges on many issues but was concerned about the city overreaching in some areas, including the minimum wage. He said wages were best approached as a metro- or statewide issue — a position Hodges took herself before siding with supporters of a municipal minimum wage ordinance.
Another voter at that same precinct, Sam Palecek, said he didn’t like how Hodges handled the police shootings that occurred during her tenure, particularly the fallout from the 2015 death of Jamar Clark. Activists occupied the Fourth Precinct police station for 18 days following Clark’s death.
Palecek ranked Frey third on his ballot, after Hoch and Dehn.
Will Christianson made Frey his first choice, and said his top issues were Downtown safety, police-community relations and housing. Christianson said Frey was “not afraid of complex policy issues,” had shown an ability to assemble coalitions and was a vocal “cheerleader” for Minneapolis.