Mayor R.T. Rybak strongly supports the city's recently enacted bar and restaurant smoking ban, and his campaign says mayoral challenger and Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin is doing an unfiltered flip-flop.
Minneapolis, Bloomington and Hennepin County all passed smoking bans that went into effect March 31.
McLaughlin supported the county smoking ban, but that support appears to be flagging.
In an Aug. 25 interview, McLaughlin's Campaign Manager Darin Broton said McLaughlin was waiting for the results of a smoking ban study, but, "If there was a vote today, he would not change the ban."
The next day, Broton e-mailed to rescind the statement, saying, "Peter is not sure how he would vote today if there was a vote to change the ban."
McLaughlin voted July 26 to support a county resolution to review the ban's economic impact, including an analysis of sales tax data. "People are losing their jobs, bars are losing money," McLaughlin said at the time in a Skyway News interview. "A study is the responsible thing to do."
He said smoking bans did not catch on with neighboring jurisdictions as predicted. He acknowledged that weakening the county ban could hurt bars in the city he hopes to lead.
The Star Tribune reported Aug 3 that the same day McLaughlin voted for the economic impact study, he attended a mayoral campaign fund-raiser hosted by some bar owners.
The Rybak campaign was quick to send out a news release charging: "McLaughlin flip-flops on smoking ban and sells vote for campaign dollars."
Organizers said the event was planned months in advance; McLaughlin said there was nothing improper.
Green Party member Farheen Hakeem said of the smoking ban she was "very torn," "undecided," and "not passionate about repealing it or keeping it, either way."
"I have a very soft spot for small businesses that are struggling right now because of the smoking ban," Hakeem said. "At the same time, I am a Green Party member and I am an environmentalist and I care about health care. I care about the health conditions of people who work in bars."
She said she had been clear with people that she wants to be lobbied on the issue, so she can hear both sides.