Four DFL candidates, no endorsement, in Minneapolis’ 5th ward city council race

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The front-running candidate at the Ward 5 DFL Convention May 18 said it May 21 on Facebook; “it was not wasted time!” Ian Alexander came within two votes at one point, narrowly missing the “supermajority” of 60 percent needed for the party’s endorsement. It took five ballots and five hours at North Commons Park before adjourning without endorsing.

Citywide, three ward races do not have DFL endorsements; Ward 2 has a Green Party incumbent (and there is a Green Party candidate for 5th Ward, Kale Severson, endorsed on May 18). The other two open seats have endorsed DFL candidates, three endorsed a challenger over an incumbent, and five endorsed incumbents including the other Northside ward, Ward 4.

All four candidates who sought the Ward 5 DFL endorsement vowed to campaign through to the November election, where ranked-choice voting will be used to determine the winner. Blong Yang and Ken Foxworth received 25 and 2 votes, respectively, on the first convention ballot, conducted using ranked-choice voting rules. Both had said they would not abide by the endorsement if not chosen.

Brett Buckner and Ian Alexander had stated they would suspend their campaigns if another candidate was endorsed.

Buckner, the first candidate to announce for the office, trailed throughout, with 64 on the first ballot, 68 after using ranked choice, 59, 51, 59 and 53 on successive ballots. As the last ballot was counted, he circulated among supporters saying things like “stay strong, we’re going for November.”

Later, Buckner told NorthNews that according to his campaign spreadsheets, there were 35 to 40 delegates who did not show up for the convention, who had said they would vote for him. “Numerically it still would have been a no-endorsement situation. We live and learn. Democracy is those who show up. There’s a reason for the 60 percent rule, it has to be the true will of the community.”

Buckner said “the supporters [our campaign] came in with are the people we came out with. They are community leaders, we’re going to be all right. Now I’m encouraging all Northsiders to vote.” The last city council election had an 18-19 percent turnout, “we need to double that and I think we’ll do that. Blong and Ian will be getting their people out.”

Alexander had 89 first choice votes, 96 after using ranked choice, and 95, 101, 100, and 99 on the later ballots. Of the 27 votes from the two eliminated candidates, only 20 listed a second choice according to the math: 7 for Alexander, 4 for Buckner, and 9 for no endorsement.

Yang said there was a lot of confusion about using ranked choice voting for the convention vote, “the way the option was presented made it seem like it would give everyone a chance to go home earlier. There was a lot of push to do it, like it was kind of sexy, new, interesting. It didn’t help us.”

Yang said, “I feel better about our chances in November.”

Asked why no candidate asked to speak between ballots, Yang said his campaign “got to a point of no confidence in the process” after making some unsuccessful credentials challenges.

Alexander said he thought of addressing the group before the third ballot, but since “two of the candidates wanted to block endorsement and the third asked his people to block once he saw he was losing,” decided to just let things play out. “For me, a certain number of delegates had to leave after the third ballot, and Brett was bringing more people in.”

About the Candidates

In introductory speeches, candidates were given 10 minutes to use however they saw fit (including speeches by others).

Brett Buckner: Nominated by Pat and Jenny Downey, and Kim Ellison. A Northsider all his life, Buckner talked about his mother’s and grandmother’s history. “Recession couldn’t chase us out, foreclosures couldn’t chase us out, tornados couldn’t chase us out.” He said he “fought hard at the NAACP and have the welts on my back to prove it.” Buckner said he’ll be fighting for equity, “we should have what Southwest has,” and said we can eradicate homelessness by the end of the decade. Buckner repeated that he had been a field director for Congressman Keith Ellison.

Ken Foxworth: “I know I don’t have a crowd and I started late, but I had to stand up.” He said he’d done a lot of things “by myself.” He raised $655,000 in scholarships for the University of Minnesota, and worked on a program that sent 40 percent of its students on to secondary education. “We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.” He said graduation is important for all, but “graduate a woman, you graduate a nation.” He said his issues are crime, economic development and housing.

Blong Yang: “We are a party of immigrants; waves and waves have built America and the Northside to what it is today. The British used the colonies as penal colonies. It’s a reminder we must include those who have paid their debt to society.” His endorsers included Matthew McGlory who talked about economic development and LaDonna Peterson on crime. Former First Ward Council Member Paul Ostrow said “it is important who has the integrity and the work ethic.” Blong worked for the Minneapolis Civil Rights department when he could have made more money at a big firm, and he will improve the Civil Rights department, Ostrow said. Jeff Skrenes said on housing preservation, “Blong gets it. He researches issues carefully, and acts boldly.”

Ian Alexander: Alexander brought the biggest crowd of any candidate with him to the podium, yet did most of the speaking. Jordan Rochelle, young and new to the process, said, “I didn’t see a lot of young people here but I’m representing for them” and think Ian Alexander will represent their interests. Alexander alluded to doing a lot of door knocking, covering delegates several times. He said West Broadway should come to resemble Lake Street with healthy businesses, and that the quizzical “you live in North Minneapolis?” should come to be an envious “you live in North Minneapolis!” Alexander said, “I know it’s possible, because I did it before, in Baltimore” where he worked on economic development. The largest impediment to revitalization is crime, and that is indicative of lack of careers.

Question-Answer period

There was a question-answer period.

What is your experience in creating jobs?

Buckner: Worked for the Census Bureau, recruited others.

Foxworth: Brought jobs through the U of M.

Yang said he has experience as a small business owner, and the city should be encouraging small businesses as they are the source of jobs.

Alexander has experience working in Baltimore for the governor, in the office of business and minority affairs and with relocating and establishing businesses throughout Maryland.

Describe the moment in your life when you realized you were a democrat:

Foxworth: “When my mother was put in prison for protesting a lack of teachers.”

Yang: “In August 1998 when I became a citizen, came to law school here and was the only Hmong. Then when Barack Obama was elected I thought ‘my kids can be president.’”

Alexander: “ November 11, 2009 I opened my family law practice in North Minneapolis.” He recalled something a Republican said to him then that made him realize that party “was not for me.”

Buckner: “Birth.”

All candidates said they would work to restore the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority property tax levy. All said they would champion the Minneapolis Energy Initiative, which calls for considering municipalization when the 20-year franchise agreements the city has with the electric and gas utilities expire in 2014 and 2015, or using the franchise agreement “to advance support for energy efficiency, clean energy, and local ownership” (from Minneapolis Energy Options’ website).

All answered a question about making sure people are properly prepared for home ownership:

Alexander: “Homeownership is most important, and good rental on major corridors.”

Buckner: “We have organizations that do this, we have to connect the dots better—we know how, we have done it.”

Foxworth: “With non-profit organizations, you can work yourself into a house. It reduces crime.”

Yang: “If you grow up with your dad doing home improvement,” it becomes a culture.

How has ranked choice voting affected your campaign style?

Foxworth: “It hasn’t.”

Yang: “It’s supposed to be more cordial, and so far, maybe. I hope it doesn’t get ugly. With four or five people running it serves the voter by broadening” what we talk about and making us “make good messages.”

Alexander: “At first I thought it was crazy, now I think it’s a good way. You don’t want to alienate who you want to be the second choice.”

Buckner: “Hasn’t changed at all. It will make it a little more fun, having to do campaign calculus instead of campaign algebra.”

Ken Foxworth

Ian Alexander confers with supporters after a ballot.

Blong Yang

Brett Buckner confers with delegates as the last ballot was tallied.

Doing the math.