Although he didn’t get enough first-choice votes to win outright, Mayor Jacob Frey prevailed in further vote counting in the city’s ranked choice system to win reelection.
The city’s election services office confirmed Frey’s win Wednesday afternoon.
Under the city’s ranked choice voting system, Frey needed to get 50 percent of the first-choice votes in order to win outright without counting voters’ other choices. He came in at about 43 percent.
Former state Rep. Kate Knuth and community organizer Sheila Nezhad had formed an alliance of sorts, urging their supporters to write them in as their second choice and to not rank Frey at all. The effort was supported by a coalition of progressive and activist groups.
That plan appeared to work, with Frey, Nezhad and Knuth, all DFLers, in the top three in first-choice voting, with none reaching the threshold to call the race. Together, Nezhad and Knuth won just under 40 percent of the first-choice voting.
Additional counting Wednesday of voter preferences beyond their first choice brought Frey victory. The final tally showed Frey with 56 percent support and Knuth the runner-up with 44 percent.
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In St. Paul, Mayor Melvin Carter won reelection easily.
The capital city also uses ranked choice voting and Carter held more than 61 percent of first-choice votes late Tuesday with all precincts reporting.
Floyd killing, police issues drove Minneapolis race
Police accountability and public safety issues were at the heart of the race in Minneapolis.
George Floyd’s killing in May 2020 by a Minneapolis police officer was followed by days of civil unrest, which included protests, arson and looting that damaged hundreds of buildings across the Twin Cities, the burning of a police precinct and nights of curfew enforced by the National Guard.
Knuth said Frey had “failed” as a leader in the wake of Floyd’s murder. She said residents she’s talked to have lost faith that Frey can “competently manage the city government” or “help us navigate our path forward.”
Frey said the unprecedented events during his term have undoubtedly been “heavy” but said they’ve united residents in addressing longtime problems in the city’s public safety system. He points to policy changes he’s made in the department since last year, including clearer guidelines for officer use of force and a ban on most no-knock raids.
Frey said violent crime in Minneapolis, including fatal shootings, shows the city needs to have more police officers out on the street, not fewer. He said he especially hears this from people who live in north Minneapolis, which has experienced frequent gun violence. City police report 81 homicides already this year, on pace to exceed last year’s total of 82.
Tuesday’s ballot also asked voters whether they wanted to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety in the city’s charter. Frey opposes the measure. Both Nezhad and Knuth support it, arguing that the pace of reforms within the department has been too slow.
But Nezhad said opponents of the public safety ballot initiative had engaged in “fear-mongering,” saying their claim “that the safety amendment means no one will be there to help you is the myth that's being spread.”
“We've pretty easily found that [when] we have conversations with people about what the amendment really does, even if we just show them the actual language of the amendment, many more folks think of it as a reasonable next step,” Nezhad said.
Political figures in the state also lined up behind candidates. Statewide elected officials like Gov. Tim Walz, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Attorney General Keith Ellison backed Frey. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar endorsed both Knuth and Nezhad, and urged voters not to rank Frey. The pair also received more endorsements from local elected officials than Frey.
Precinct data analyzed by MPR News showed Frey’s fortunes were closely tied to how Minneapolis voters felt about the effort to overhaul city policing and replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a public safety department.
The vote showed a very strong relationship between support for Frey and opposition to the public safety department. The stronger Frey did in a precinct, the better “No” tended to do on the police overhaul question.
If history is any indicator, Frey is likely in good shape. From 1981 through 2021, there have been 11 elections for Minneapolis mayor. Nine of them featured an incumbent on the ballot. In seven of the nine, the incumbents won.
Frey on Tuesday also touted the win on a ballot question giving the mayor's office more executive authority.
“It allows us get real and serious about the work ahead,” he said. “It allows us to have a delineation between who is in charge of what, and I think that will also push back on a lot of the silly disagreements we've seen over the last year and a half."
Editor’s note: This story was first published Tuesday and updated throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday.