Rybak, incumbents win big

Two of the three Southwest Park Board races were too close to call, while a referendum to replace the membership of the Board of Estimate and Taxation with the City Council was defeated by a large margin.

Mayor R.T. Rybak appears poised for a third term in office, as first-round, unofficial election results from Tuesday night show him receiving close to 74 percent of first-choice votes. That’s far beyond the 50 percent plus one threshold he needed to win his seat and about 63 percent more than his closest competition.

He didn’t seem to have been hurt much by a 10-opponent opposition, who in recent weeks panned Rybak for participating in just one short debate — a 30-minute radio event that didn’t take place until the day before the election. His opponents also criticized him for already seemingly running for governor, a campaign he’s widely expected to kick off anytime.

But Rybak has said that if he runs for governor, he would still be able to successfully focus on the city. Minneapolis didn’t suffer, he has said, when he spent many hours campaigning for now-President Barack Obama throughout Minnesota.

Rybak’s closest competitor ended up being Papa John Kolstad, the musician and small-business owner. Kolstad wanted an increased focus on small businesses and less property taxes, and he was Republican and Independence parties-endorsed. He received about 11 percent of first-round votes.

Strongly vocal opponent Al Flowers, who accused Rybak of running the city like a dictator, received a little under 4 percent of first-round votes.

While the arrival of ranked-choice voting meant it was harder to call some races on election night — in particular, the multi-seat contests — all Southwest City Council seats were won by strong majorities.

The closest Southwest contest came in the 6th Ward, where incumbent Council Member Robert Lilligren eeked by the 50 percent plus one threshold with about 53 percent of first-round votes. Two of his opponents, union plumber Mike Tupper and former pre-school teacher Laura Jean, received more than 10 percent of first-round votes. No candidate, save for mechanic Bruce Lundeen, received less than 8 percent of votes.

In the 7th Ward, incumbent Lisa Goodman again dominated the field. Despite recent legal troubles that her opponents used against her during a candidate forum, Goodman received more than 68 percent of first-round votes. Michael Katch, a futures trader and columnist, received about 24 percent.

In the 8th Ward, incumbent Elizabeth Glidden received a dominant 75 percent of first-round votes. She faced four opponents, the Green Party-endorsed Jeanine Estime being her most visible challenger. But Estime ended up with less than 15 percent of first-round votes.

In the 10th Ward, despite no incumbent, there wasn’t a particularly close competition. Meg Tuthill, the longtime small-business owner and the Democratic Farmer Labor-endorsed candidate, won more than 72 percent of first-round votes. In second was Republican and Independence parties-endorsed Kim Vlaisavljevich, with just over 10 percent. Matt Dowgwillo and Dan Alvin received a near-identical number of first-round votes — just under 9 percent each.

In the 11th Ward, also lacking an incumbent, the DFL-endorsed candidate also dominated. John Quincy, a small-business owner and frequent community activist, received about 64 percent of first-round votes. In second was Gregg Iverson, a Minnesota Department of Transportation retiree and frequent candidate, with just about 18 percent. Quincy will replace outgoing Council Member Scott Benson.

Even in the sometimes unpredictable 13th Ward, the DFL continued its reign. Incumbent Betsy Hodges received more than 69 percent of first-round votes, meaning she overcame opponent Kris Broberg’s challenges on fiscal accountability. Broberg ended up with about 26 percent of votes.

For Southwest representation to the Park Board, only one race avoided a runoff: District 4, where there was just one candidate. Anita Tabb will replace outgoing Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom after receiving more than 97 percent of votes.

But in District 6, which incumbent Commissioner Bob Fine left to instead run citywide, there is no clear winner yet, and the race seems poised for an interesting runoff. In the first round, DFL-endorsed Brad Bourn received 48 percent of votes, with opponent Meg Forney coming in at a fairly close second with more than 36 percent. Because the 50 percent plus one threshold wasn’t reached, a runoff is likely to occur — meaning some second- and third-choice votes could count. If the second choices on ballots that put least votes-getter Geneva Hanvik first don’t put Bourn over the edge, second choices from ballots that put Steve Jecha first could be counted next. And because Jecha had been campaigning to put him first and Forney second, Forney could make the race close — although mathematics currently are not on her side.

The Park Board at-large race, meanwhile, appears completely up in the air as first-round votes show a very tight contest. The threshold to win was 25 percent plus one, but the top votes-getter, Bob Fine, received 22 percent. From there, the race stayed close, with Annie Young getting 18 percent, John Erwin 17 percent, Mary Merrill Anderson 15 percent and Tom Nordyke 10 percent. Because there’s no way to know which second and third choices will be counted, there’s no way to know until hand counting is completed who the winners are.

What is known: the Board of Estimate and Taxation will remain as is. The board, which sets the city’s and Park Board’s annual maximum property tax levies and has oversight of internal audits, had been targeted by a referendum to be replaced by the City Council. Referendum supporters including Rybak and many incumbent council members had argued the board’s obscurity made it hard for citizens to hold accountable, but the referendum received just 35 percent "yes" votes.

The ballot question’s failure means the city’s other at-large race, for the two separately elected seats on the Board of Estimate and Taxation, has meaning. The definite winner for one of those seats: incumbent Carol Becker, who received more than 52 percent of first-round votes. The threshold to win was 33.3 percent plus one. Who will fill the other seat remains a question mark, as the second most votes-getter, David Wheeler, got 19 percent.

All of these results, save for the referendum, will remain unofficial until hand-counting is completed. That process begins at 11 a.m. today and could last through mid-December. Precinct results will be counted by ward in this random order: 13th, 12th, 2nd, 11th, 6th, 7th, 5th, 10th, 4th, 3rd, 1st, 8th and 9th.