Schiff drops out of mayoral race, backs Hodges

Gary Schiff at the MayDay Parade. Credit: Photo by Kristin Lebben

Gary Schiff has dropped out of the mayoral race and thrown his support behind Betsy Hodges.

The 9th Ward City Council member had a third place finish at the Minneapolis DFL City Convention on Saturday. He withdrew his name from the third ballot at the convention and formed an alliance with Hodges in an effort to block Mark Andrew from securing 60 percent of the delegates’ votes to win the party’s endorsement.

The move angered the Minneapolis Firefighters Union, which has a bitter relationship with Hodges, who represents the Council’s 13th Ward. The union then threw support behind Andrew instead of Schiff. 

Schiff and Hodges haven’t always been known to be closely aligned, but Schiff said he felt compelled to drop out and back her so as not to split the progressive base. He said he wants voters to have a clear choice on Election Day.

Hodges said Schiff’s support “gives a united progressive front” to the race moving forward. She praised him as an “accomplished public servant” working on progressive causes in the city.

“It means a lot moving forward for the campaign, and it means a lot moving forward for the city,” she said.

Schiff said he doesn’t plan to run again for his Council seat and hasn’t made up his mind about what he’ll do after his term ends. For now, he’ll be actively campaigning for Hodges.

He said Hodges will move the city forward, while Andrew is a candidate that embraces policies of the past.

In her speech before the delegates at the convention, Hodges also argued she was the candidate of the future while other candidates were stuck in the 1990s — a time when city leaders embraced subsidies for projects like Block E. While she didn’t name them, she was alluding to Andrew and Jackie Cherryhomes since they are the only candidates who were elected officials at that time. Andrew served on the Hennepin County Board and Cherryhomes on the City Council.

“Why were we acting like Minneapolis had to beg? Why were we acting like big corporate subsidies would save our city? Block E did not save us,” she said. “Business owners who had been here for generations and weathered the storm saved us. Latino and East African immigrants investing on Lake Street saved us. Electing city leaders who got our financial house in order saved us, and yes, leaving the false choices of the ’90s behind and truly entering the 21st century saved us.”

Andrew said the partnership between Hodges and Schiff was a political alliance designed to prevent him from being endorsed. “As the second and third place finishers they sort of had to get together or we would have been the endorsed candidate,” he said.

He added that he finds it a little amusing that they are calling him the establishment candidate while they have a combined 20 years in office together.

“Both the City Council members [Schiff and Hodges] have not demonstrated an ability to put coalitions together to actually get things done,” Andrew said. “They have sat idly by for many years failing to address the very issues they claim to advocate today. It’s going to be a hard sell to the voters.”

Hodges disputed the suggestion that she is not a coalition builder. She pointed to her work on pension reform, the merger of the city and county library systems, workforce goals on the new Vikings stadium and her leadership with the League of Minnesota Cities.

“Building relationships is what I do,” she said.

Andrew supporters are also trying to challenge the notion that Andrew is part of the old guard. They have started using the hashtag “newguard” in tweets about the candidate.

Along with Andrew and Hodges, the frontrunners in the race, there are several other candidates actively campaigning for mayor including Cam Winton, an Independent, and DFLers Cherryhomes, Dan Samuels, Jim Thomas, Green Party candidate Doug Mann and two newcomers — Dan Cohen and Stephanie Woodruff.

Schiff had been running on a platform calling for regulatory reform to make it easier for small businesses to operate in the city. He has also been highly critical of the financing of the Vikings stadium and has repeatedly said at mayoral debates that more attention needs to be focused on fighting poverty in the city.

In an interview following his press conference earlier today, Schiff said Hodges shares his progressive values on opposing subsidies for sports venues like Target Field and the new Vikings stadium. They have also worked together on pension reform, which Schiff called an “underappreciated accomplishment of Rybak and Hodges.”

Schiff has served on the City Council since 2001.