Meet the 3 candidates in Minneapolis seeking the open seat in Ward 12

Three candidates pose
From left to right: Aurin Chowdhury, Luther Ranheim and Nancy Ford.
Courtesy photos

The departure of a swing vote on the Minneapolis City Council opens up a seat that could help bring about changes in how the council works. 

Candidates Aurin Chowdhury, Luther Ranheim and Nancy Ford are vying for the Ward 12 seat left open by the departure of Council Member Andrew Johnson — who has represented the ward located in the eastern corner of south Minneapolis since 2014.

Chowdhury, 26, said she decided to run because she wants to center the voices and experiences of everyday residents, including working families. 

“For me, it’s really about bridging our city from recovery to thriving,” Chowdhury said. “I’ve always spoken on my campaign about creating a safe, healthy connected community that fosters a multi generational and multi racial community.” 

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Chowdhury currently serves as the senior policy aide for Council Member Jason Chavez. She previously worked at City Hall, managed the elections of local state lawmakers and worked in community organizing on issues like affordable housing and climate change. 

“I have experience working in local government, passing policy and pushing the status quo,” Chowdhury said. “I’ve also experienced working in three different budget cycles — I’m the candidate that’s going to be ready on day one, and I think that’s a key difference.”

Chowdhury has the DFL Party endorsement. Her main challenger is Luther Ranheim, 50. He grew up near Lake Nokomis and has lived in the Howe neighborhood of south Minneapolis for more than two decades. 

“I know this community well because of that lived experience, and I’m stepping up to bring my full career of experience in the private sector and nonprofit sector to bear to serve this community and be a community-informed advocate at City Hall,” Ranheim said.  

Ranheim has worked in fundraising for social service and arts nonprofits for the last 15 years. He previously worked for a wealth management company and said he’d bring his business experience to City Hall to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent in areas where they can help the most people. 

“I’m a pragmatic leader who listens to people and takes in information and looks to make the best decision to meet the needs of everyone in our community,” Ranheim said.  

Another candidate running for the seat is Nancy Ford. She lags behind Chowdhury and Ranheim in fundraising and doesn’t list any endorsements. Ford, 65, previously challenged Council Member Andrew Johnson in 2021 but was soundly defeated. 

“I didn’t feel and I still don’t feel that local government is easily accessible to people,” Ford said. “I think it’s oftentimes confusing and difficult to find the answers to questions, and also to be engaged.” 

Ford has worked as everything from an Antarctic ice core driller to a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service. She currently runs a small business in south Minneapolis. 

“One of the things that we’ve been lacking on the city council for years is the perspective of a small business owner, which is drastically different from a politician,” Ford said. 

All three candidates see public safety as a core issue this election. 

Chowdhury said she wants to make sure public safety is comprehensive, accountable and responsive to residents’ needs. Chowdhury supports bringing Minneapolis police officer staffing up to the minimum required in the city charter. 

She would also like to see the city better fund neighborhood safety efforts, which includes violence interrupters and behavioral crisis response efforts. 

As a council member, Ranheim said he supports bringing the number of officers on the force up beyond the minimum requirement. He said he’d also make sure the city was meeting its requirements under a state court-enforced agreement that requires changes to the Minneapolis police.  

Chowdhury is the only candidate in Ward 12 who supports rent stabilization policy, although she does not support a three percent cap and envisions a policy that would grant exemptions for affordable housing projects and small property owners.

Chowdhury said rent stabilization isn’t a “silver bullet,” but just one of a number of policies that will be required to address the city’s housing crisis.

“We can figure out through a data driven process what are reasonable constraints with exceptions that creates a policy that’s truly tailormade for the city of Minneapolis,” Chowdhury said. 

Ranheim points to the rent stabilization policy in St. Paul as a warning for Minneapolis.

“Rent control would do more harm than good for those that it’s meant to help.” Ranheim said. I think that would halt further development of affordable housing, which the city has been doing such a good job of moving forward in recent years.”  

Ford said a rent stabilization policy in Minneapolis would be a disaster.

The City Council is adjusting to the new strong mayor system, which voters approved in 2021. Chowdhury said residents should think of it more as an “executive mayor and legislative council system.” She said the city needs to invest in more nonpartisan research and support staff so the council can better legislate. 

“Both the mayor and council have really important duties that impact everyday residents and they need to be able to work in concert and partnership and find compromise in order to get the job done,” Chowdhury said.  

Ranheim sees the council’s main role as approving the city’s budget and working with the mayor to pass policy. He envisions helping the council transition into the new system over the next few years. 

Ford wants to see the City Council work more collaboratively together. 

“I’m a member of a team of 13 and those 13 people need to make decisions, and they need to make those decisions together and cooperatively,” Ford said. “Sometimes that means you have to compromise and sometimes the answer is straightforward. The goal is, let’s get these problems solved.” 

In the last term, the city council has faced scrutiny for repeated blow-ups between members during public meetings. 

Chowdhury said she has good relationships with council members and sees herself as a consensus builder. 

“One of my goals … on the policy side as a council member, is to change the politics in Minneapolis, to center it around actual community building, where neighbors can see each other face-to-face and understand that unity is our best resource as a city that’s recovering and trying to get to thriving,” Chowdhury said.   

Ranheim said he’d try to build bridges across the political spectrum at City Hall. 

“That means being willing to sit down and listen and bring a curious outlook to those conversations, knowing that I don’t know all the answers and bringing that humble attitude to be willing to learn from those who may have different views,” Ranheim said.  

Chowdhury has the support of outgoing Council Member Andrew Johnson, Attorney General Keith Ellison and a host of state and county lawmakers. She’s also got the support of progressive groups like Take Action Minnesota, the Sierra Club and the Twin Cities chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, as well as a number of labor unions. 

Luther Ranheim has been endorsed by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, the Star Tribune Editorial Board, Hennepin County Sheriff Dawanna Witt and former elected officials including Sharon Sayles-Belton, among others.

Polls are open on Tuesday, Nov. 7 from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.