Aug 5, 2021 - Politics

How much does money matter in Minneapolis council races?

Three headshots of Minneapolis mayoral candidates Sheila Nezhad (left) and Kate Knuth (middle), alongside incumbent Jacob Frey (right).

Sheila Nezhad (left) and Kate Knuth (center) are challenging Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. Photos courtesy of Nezhad and Knuth campaigns; Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Candidates taking more moderate stances on policing in Minneapolis are out-raising their opponents who want to replace the city's current police department.

Driving the news: Campaign finance reports for the period of January through July were due on Tuesday and made public over recent days.

Why it matters: Money helps candidates organize, raise their profile and get their message out. But city wards are small and money only goes so far.

  • In 2017, pro-business donors raised big money to support moderate council candidates, only to see more liberal candidates win those races.

The big picture: Mayor Jacob Frey raised $383,900, which is more than his two main opponents combined. Kate Knuth raised $136,700, and Sheila Nezhad $119,400.

Zoom in: A number of more moderate candidates in city council races also reported bigger hauls than their incumbent opponents, who have been supportive of replacing the Minneapolis Police Department.

  • Michael Rainville out-raised incumbent Steve Fletcher in Ward 3, $75,000 to $24,000.
  • LaTrisha Vetaw out-raised incumbent Phillipe Cunningham in Ward 4, $49,000 to $29,000.
  • In Ward 11, challenger Emily Koski reported a haul of $69,400, blowing away incumbent Jeremy Schroeder, who raised $15,300.

What they're saying: "On the progressive side, raising money has never been the main focus in Minneapolis, or the key to winning," said Kenza Hadj-Moussa, director of public affairs for TakeAction Minnesota. "It's typically been in the field through conversations and talking to people, door-to-door. So money certainly helps, but it's only one factor."

Yes, but: Progressive donors have also been giving to the Yes 4 Minneapolis political fund that's pushing for a charter amendment to allow to the city to replace MPD.

  • That group raised nearly $1 million in cash and in-kind donations, to go along with $500,000 it raised last year.

Meanwhile: AllofMpls, a fund opposing that amendment and supporting one that would strengthen the mayor's position, has raised $109,500. But it only launched three weeks ago and will be raising more.

  • "You're going to be seeing a lot more from AllofMpls in the coming weeks, starting (at) the doors, and we're going to be communicating with voters through all kinds of available channels and opportunities," said campaign manager Leili Fatehi.

Between the lines: Heavy spending on the charter amendment could mobilize voters across the city, tipping the scales in other contests.

  • "There's no question that the spending on the ballot propositions could have a big impact on the ... mayor or city council [races]," David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University, told us. "But the question is whose turnout does it drive more."

What's ahead: Campaigns have been relatively quiet this summer, but expect to see things pick up toward the end of the month.


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