Mpls. council president Barb Johnson defeated in wave of newcomers

Minneapolis council member Barb Johnson
Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson lost her re-election bid Tuesday.
Brandt Williams | MPR News 2014

Minneapolis City Council president Barbara Johnson lost her re-election bid Tuesday, a stunning defeat for a well-known politician and council veteran who'd led the body for 11 years.

The loss came in an election that saw a wave of activists and newcomers win seats. That included Phillipe Cunningham, who beat Johnson after the second and third rounds of ranked-choice votes were tabulated Wednesday. Cunningham is one of two transgender people elected to the council this year.

Johnson was first elected to the council in 1997 to represent the Ward 4. During her tenure, the city partnered with the state and the Minnesota Vikings to fund construction of U.S. Bank Stadium. She worked to pull votes together to support the plan to have the city contribute $150 million to the more than $1 billion project.

Johnson had "a real statesperson approach to the job" and was a warm colleague who cared about others on the council and her city," said Council member Lisa Bender. Johnson, she added, valued the city's reputation and worked "to put our best foot forward."

After Johnson won re-election in 2013, she fought off a challenge to her leadership post from Council member Elizabeth Glidden, who was viewed as more liberal.

When the council voted last year to repeal laws against spitting and lurking, Johnson was the only member to vote against the repeal of both laws. She said the lurking law allowed police officers to stop and arrest people before they commit crimes in neighborhoods like the ones she represented on the north side.

Johnson, a registered nurse, grew up in a politically active family. Her mother, Alice Rainville, was council president for most of the 1980s. Her daughter is Emily Piper, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

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