Rybak gears up for final year as mayor

Several candidates have emerged to run for the job

Mayor R.T. Rybak gave a rousing speech about his plans for his last year as mayor at his New Year's Eve open house at the Aria in the North Loop. Credit: By Brent Nelson

R.T. Rybak said 12 years will be enough, announcing on Dec. 27 he won’t seek a fourth term as Minneapolis mayor.

What he’ll do next is still up in the air. He hasn’t ruled out a possible run for governor or a job with President Obama’s administration in D.C. Whatever he does, Rybak said he said he’ll still be involved in Minneapolis.

“Whether or not I’m working as a mayor, I’m going to be working for Minneapolis,” Rybak said at a press conference at the Midtown Global Market, flanked by his wife, two kids and mother. “And I want to assure people that I’m going to stay very involved in keeping Minneapolis moving in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, mayoral hopefuls are beginning to line up for Rybak’s seat. As of press time at least eight people said they were either running or considering a run.

Rybak said he wouldn’t run against Gov. Mark Dayton should he seek a second term in 2014, but did say he was interested in the job. Rybak is 57.

 “Governor is the one other job that I would run for, but I don’t expect that would be open for six years,” he said. “I expect the governor to run again and maybe I will be in a walker by the time it’s open, but maybe I will still be interested. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Rumors have been swirling for months that Rybak would take a job in the Obama Administration. Rybak campaigned heavily for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but he downplayed much of the speculation during his speech.

“I can’t take anything off the table, because in a year I am going to be unemployed, but my goal is to find something here in Minneapolis that continues some of the meaningful work I have done and I honestly don’t know what that is,” Rybak told reporters after his speech.

Rybak called 2012 the most productive year in his mayoral career, and he called his third term the most productive of the three. But he also said he would be aggressive in making 2013 even more productive.

On his list of priorities: A strategy to re-open Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street and connecting the city by streetcar; renovating the Target Center; redeveloping the Vikings stadium district; working to prevent youth and gun violence; creating more opportunities for the city’s youth and improving conditions in North Minneapolis.

“I believe in giving the taxpayers a good value for the dollar, so in the coming year, Minneapolis will get about four years’ worth of work out of me,” he said.

On his blog, Rybak wrote: “No matter what I’ve done or will ever do, the greatest professional joy I could have is serving the city I love. When I go around town, I still get goose bumps when I think: I’m the mayor of the great city of Minneapolis.”

2013 race could be crowded

City Council Member John Quincy (Ward 11) attended Rybak’s announcement on Dec. 27. Quincy said Rybak has done a “tremendous job.” Then, when asked if he would run for mayor, Quincy laughed.

“No, I am not. I am the only one,” Quincy quipped.

Quincy is right. Within days of Rybak’s announcement, mayor hopefuls began sending out press releases and telling reporters they were contemplating a run in 2013.

Several months ago City Council Member Gary Schiff (Ward 9) made it public he was considering a run for mayor. Schiff still hasn’t announced if he is definitely running, but he has started a fundraising committee. 

Betsy Hodges (Ward 13) started her own fundraising committee in November, but said she would only run if Rybak didn’t. After the announcement, she made her intentions official in a press release.

“After carefully consulting with family, friends, and people of every neighborhood who care about our city, I intend to run for mayor,” she wrote. “In the coming days, weeks and months, I look forward to hearing from residents about the future of our city and sharing my vision for Minneapolis. That conversation starts today.”

Don Samuels (Ward 5) announced he is exploring a run, and named former Police Chief Tim Dolan as the chair of his exploratory committee. Samuels, who represents North Minneapolis, focused on public safety in his announcement.

“Over the next couple weeks, I will spend some time with close friends and family as I determine how I can next serve Minneapolis. I will release my intentions shortly after the New Year,” he wrote.

Hennepin Theatre Trust CEO Tom Hoch is also contemplating a run, but hasn’t officially launched a campaign.

“I want to first hear from people about what they are seeking for their city and from their next mayor before I decide,” he said.  “I am all ears right now.”

Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine also said he is considering a run. Fine, a Linden Hills resident, has served 15 year on the Park Board.

Jackie Cherryhomes and Hussein Samatar both previously announced they were considering runs, so long as Rybak didn’t seek re-election.

Samatar is founder and executive director of the African Development Center, and Cherryhomes is the former City Council president.

Finally, Jim Graves, the hotel executive and DFL challenger to Michelle Bachmann in 2012, didn’t rule out a run. He told the St. Cloud Times that he had been lobbied by members of the City Council and Minneapolis business community to run, but said he was more focused on national politics.

Graves told the Times that he lived in St. Cloud when he ran against Bachmann, but also maintains a residence in Linden Hills. 

Rybak said it was too early for him to endorse someone for the job.

“It’s way early,” Rybak said. I will talk about that later, but we have a long time.”

The Minneapolis DFL is scheduled to hold its endorsing convention on June 15. With such a crowded field that is likely to grow, politicos think there’s not likely to be an endorsement for mayor.

— Sarah McKenzie contributed to this report