Takeaways from Star Tribune poll on mayoral race

A new Star Tribune poll on the mayoral race released Sunday had some surprising results: Dan Cohen and City Council Member Don Samuels led the field of 35 candidates — ahead of Mark Andrew and Betsy Hodges who have been regarded by many as the leading contenders for mayor.

The poll of 800 likely Minneapolis voters conducted mid-September showed there is no clear frontrunner in the race. Cohen and Samuels each polled at 16 percent, followed by Hodges at 14 percent, Andrew at 10 percent, Cam Winton, 9 percent; Jackie Cherryhomes, 7 percent; Stephanie Woodruff, 5 percent; and Bob Fine, 1 percent. (The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.)

Larry Jacobs, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said many observers of the race had presumed that Andrew and Hodges were ahead considerably. They have led the field in campaign fundraising and endorsements.

Cohen, a member of the Planning and Charter commissions, has loaned his campaign $285,000 and has spent far more on advertising than any other candidate, which might be a factor in his message gaining traction. Samuels has also been running a stronger campaign than some were expecting.

Jacobs said the results show the importance of independent polling.

“The top four candidates are tied in statistical terms and a majority of voters don’t know enough about six out of seven candidates to list likes/dislikes,” he said, adding that campaign operations are very important in a close race like this. “One out of four can’t list second preferences; one out of three can’t list 3rd preference. Door to door work is essential.”

Cohen’s campaign platform has been focused on criticizing the financing of the Vikings stadium and pushing for a downtown casino. He said the Star Tribune poll shows that it’s “obvious people want to put an end to this Vikings stadium deal.”

He said the saga with the Wilfs is “beginning to sound like a script from the Sopranos.”

Patrick Layden, Don Samuels’ campaign manager, said the team is “excited to see that Don’s message of safe streets, great schools, and sustainable economic growth is resonating with voters all across the city.” 

“The best news to me was the evidence of the truly impressive coalition of support that Don has garnered,” he said. “He is leading all other candidates among women, seniors, African Americans, Republicans, Democrats, union members, Catholics, people with a college degree and those with a high school diploma. That’s the kind of broad support that is required to win in a ranked choice election.”

He added that the campaign will continue to reach out to undecided voters and build second choice support in the final weeks before the election.

Hodges said she’s “excited for the next 50 days.”

“The Star Tribune poll shows what we’ve known all along: this is a wide-open campaign. That is why we invested early in a grassroots campaign that is talking to people in Minneapolis about my plan to eliminate the achievement gap in our schools so all of our children can thrive no matter what neighborhood they live in,” she said.

Andrew’s team has released information via social media about an internal poll showing Andrew, a former Hennepin County commissioner, with a 10 percent lead — a move other campaigns have viewed with skepticism.

Winton, a wind power attorney running as an independent, said the results show “it’s a wide-open, fluid race and each voter’s second and third choices really matter.”

Woodruff said she doesn’t have a lot of faith in polls, calling them “complete speculation.”

She said she’s focused on her message: pushing for living wage careers, smart transit investments, expanding educational opportunities for the city’s youth and making government more open and transparent.