An untraditional Republican joins mayor’s race

Honerbrink. Submitted photo

Political newcomer Jonathan Honerbrink entered the Minneapolis mayoral contest in April as a Republican.

The last Republican to serve a full term as mayor of Minneapolis assumed office in 1957, DFLers have held it since 1978 and this year’s City Council races are pulling city politics to the left. But Honerbrink doesn’t present himself as a traditional Republican.

“I’m not a normal Republican by any means,” he said.

Raised on the North Side and a current resident of the West Calhoun neighborhood, Honerbrink said he comes from a “fairly liberal family” and has voted GOP only once in his life. He had few kind words for the Republican currently occupying the White House.

The former small business owner said he read the job description for mayor of Minneapolis and thought: “This fits me very well.” He quit his job with Home Depot subcontractor in March to focus all of his attention on the 2017 city elections.

“The whole part of being mayor is to focus on the community and protect the community,” he said. “I want that job.”

Honerbrink emphasized his community connections in a recent interview, including time spent volunteering as a parks league football coach and mentoring youth on the North Side. As mayor, Honerbrink would promote early learning — also a priority for the incumbent, Mayor Betsy Hodges, who formed the Cradle to K cabinet in 2014 — and try to expand access to healthcare, particularly mental health care.

“I’m about kids,” he said. “My whole goal is about kids.”

Honerbrink said he would like the city to use tax credits to incentivize businesses like CVS, Walgreens and Target to open new stores with minute clinics in underserved communities like North Minneapolis. He’d use the same tool — tax credits — to encourage Minneapolis police officers to move into the city, offering a $7,500 break on property taxes and other incentives to buy homes in the precincts where they work.

Honerbrink suggested selling city assets, such as the Minneapolis Convention Center, to pay for investments in programs for children ages 3–5. But Honerbrink said the “first thing” he’d do after taking office would be to hire a consulting firm to help him interview every Minneapolis police officer in an attempt to root out racist attitudes.

“After you see a bunch of crap, you start getting bias,” he said.

Pressed on the feasibility of these plans, Honerbrink said he’s prepared to be tested and to learn on the job.

“I don’t have all the answers,” he said. “I have to ask questions to get the right answers.”

If elected, Honerbrink said he’d spend less time in City Hall and more time out on the streets listening to community concerns and talking with business owners.

“Betsy Hodges, she doesn’t go anywhere. She’s gone,” he said.

On Facebook, Honerbrink has come out in support of Pathway to $15, a campaign backed by the restaurant industry that advocates inclusion of a tip credit (also known as a tip penalty) in any proposal to raise the citywide minimum wage. It would allow business owners to pay tipped workers less than the minimum wage, as long as the workers’ tips plus wages totaled at least $15 an hour over the course of a shift.

Honerbrink also placed fixing a “failing school system” high on his list of priorities, even though the mayor in Minneapolis has no direct control of schools.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated when Honerbrink left his last job. It was at the end of March, not April. An update to this story also clarifies that Honerbrink was employed by a Home Depot subcontractor.