Minneapolis City Council Member Betsy Hodges declared victory in the race to succeed outgoing mayor R.T. Rybak. Wednesday night after several rivals called her to concede.
City election officials are still counting ballots, because of the city's ranked choice voting system. Even so, Hodges sounded like she was transitioning to the mayor's office.
"Thank you so, so much to the people of Minneapolis for the faith and the trust that you have placed in me to lead this city into the future," she told a gathering of supporters, promising to keep pledges she made on the campaign trail.
"To work with you, to work with the community, to build and grow Minneapolis, to bring more people here based on the common ground, based on the public good, building on our progress to create an ever-greater city as we build one Minneapolis. It's a big dream Minneapolis. Let's go live the dream," she said.
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Hodges was surrounded by the staff and volunteers who built the field operation that propelled her campaign. She also acknowledged one very special guest -- Mayor Rybak.
"Mr. Mayor, I want you to know that I am well aware that you are [still] the mayor," she said, before joking about one of Rybak's more well-known antics. "I don't think it's a question tonight whether or not I am going to be crowd surfing. But R.T., please know that is your signature, and I am not going to forge your signature."
Hodges has a more reserved style than Rybak, but the current mayor says politically, the two have a lot in common.
"Mayor-elect Hodges and I have shared a lot of work together on tough issues together, but we're very different people. And I think that's a good thing. There's not a job description for mayor on purpose, because there's not a single sort of person who should be mayor," Rybak said.
Hodges is someone with a "a strong moral compass" who's also a good listener, he continued. "I think that combination's incredibly effective, because you walk into office knowing a lot things. And you walk out of office knowing how much you didn't know when you walked into office. So I think she'll go in there with some real principles, but also the ability to listen and bring people together."
Rybak donned a Hodges sticker last night, but during the campaign he remained neutral. He said he voted for Hodges on Tuesday, but he wouldn't say whether she was his first, second or third choice.
Under the city's ranked choice voting system, voters get to pick up to three candidates for each office on the ballot. Hodges built up a commanding lead among first-choice votes, but the city elections department hasn't declared her the official winner because it's still tabulating the second- and third-choice votes.
Four years ago, election officials had to count the votes by hand. This year, a new machine can do part of the work, but it's still more labor intensive than traditional ballot counting.
Election officials had planned to finish the mayor's race Wednesday, but after more than 11 hours of counting, they made it less than halfway through the process. City Clerk Casey Carl said he understands the public is anxious to get the results.
"Right now, of course, people are saying, 'When am I going to know who the mayor is?' And I respect the fact that people want answers quickly. But I hope they respect that we want accurate results," he said.
Those results aren't available, because even though Hodges has declared victory, it's still mathematically possible for former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew or City Council Member Don Samuels could overtake her. But Andrew has already publicly conceded defeat. And Hodges said Samuels called her to congratulate her on becoming the next mayor of Minneapolis.