Voters to consider raising Mpls filing fees

Last year's mayoral race in Minneapolis included 35 candidates, ranging from a member of the Pirate Party to a (separate) candidate who ran under the name Captain Jack Sparrow. The crowded race spurred MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow to describe the city's election as "crazy pants."

The threshold to run for mayor may be higher in the future. The Minneapolis Charter Commission approved a proposal Wednesday to raise filing fees for city offices. The proposal goes before voters in November.

All filing fees for municipal offices in Minneapolis are currently $20. Voters would be asked to raise the fees to run for mayor to $500, city council fees to $250 and $100 each for positions with the Board of Estimate and Taxation or Park and Recreation Board.

The measure passed the commission by a vote of 10-5. Charter Commission Chair Barry Clegg said the crowded race in the last election was one of the reasons for the support from a majority of the commission.

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"More than half the candidates who ran for mayor in the last election did not file campaign finance reports, that means they didn't spend more than $100 in their race," Clegg said. "People who don't spend $100 and don't vigorously campaign are not viable candidates for mayor."

Clegg said some Minneapolis voters were confused by the bounty of candidates last time around.

"We heard from some neighborhood groups that were frustrated because they didn't think they could put on candidate forums, because they couldn't invite all 35 candidates and give them any more than two minutes each," Clegg said.

State law allows candidates to gather signatures in lieu of paying the filing fee.

Charter Commission member Dan Cohen was himself a mayoral candidate last year. He opposed raising the mayoral filing fee to $500, although he supported earlier proposals for smaller increases.

"The public, in my opinion, is willing to hear from as many people as are willing to make the race," Cohen said. "If some of them aren't serious, then the public as voters, should take it upon themselves not to vote for them."

The commission had sent proposals to raise the filing fees to the Minneapolis City Council three times before, which would have avoided the need for voters to approve the fees by ballot. But the measure didn't receive the necessary unanimous support of council members.

The Minneapolis City Council will decide the exact language of the ballot question. Voters will consider the measure when they go to the polls on Nov. 4. If it passes, the fees to run for mayor and city council in Minneapolis will be identical to those in St. Paul.