What a progressive majority city council could mean for Minneapolis

People stand at voting booths
South Minneapolis residents cast their votes at St. Joan of Arc Community Center on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Election results this week could move the Minneapolis City Council towards a more progressive majority, which could change everything from the council’s dynamic with the mayor to the issues that get traction at city hall. 

Although Minneapolis is a mostly DFL town, city politics in recent years have been divided between liberal Democrats and a more progressive alliance of Democrats and democratic socialists.

The more progressive faction seems to have gotten the upper hand in elections this week, and will hold at least seven of 13 seats when the new members are sworn in next year. 

David Schultz, a professor of political science at Hamline University, said the new strong mayor system in the city may make it necessary for the progressive faction to work more closely with  colleagues in the minority in order to pass their priorities. Overcoming a mayoral veto requires nine votes.   

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“If they want to get anywhere, they’re going to have to figure out some type of way of getting around, potentially, a mayor’s veto,” Schultz said. “That suggests some type of compromise but we just don’t know at this point.” 

For his part, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who is associated with the moderate faction and vetoed some progressive priorities like protections for rideshare drivers, said he’s hopeful about the new council and has been reaching out to talk with council members and newly elected council members.

“Obviously in any election you develop a whole drawer of hard feelings, but at the end of an election, you take that drawer, you throw it in the trash can and you start fresh,” Frey said. “That’s the mindset everyone should have right now, and certainly the one I’m taking.” 

Schultz said the main issues he expects to come before the council next term around police accountability, rent stabilization and affordable housing may motivate council members to find common ground. 

“There are a lot of challenges that I think the city is facing, some really serious and important issues that the council just can’t stalemate on,” Schultz said. “You can’t just say at the end of the day, we’re going to stick to our positions, sit this one out and wait for the next election. These are issues that can’t wait.” 

The council will choose a new president after members are sworn in next year. Council President Andrea Jenkins, who led the moderate majority, squeaked by with a 38 vote win over challenger Soren Stevenson. 

In an online statement to his supporters, Stevenson announced he will not seek a recount.

Jenkins said she hasn’t yet decided whether to seek the presidency again, but said she’s willing to work with anyone on the council who can bring Minneapolis a brighter future. 

“There are some divisions on the Minneapolis City Council but I’m really trying not to feed into that,” Jenkins said. “I am really trying to work to bring people together, to collaborate, to bring some bridge-building to the work that we’re doing on the city council.” 

A woman shouts in front of a wall of campaign signs
Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins, Ward 8, thanks her supporters during an election night party at the Creekside Supper Club in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Council Member Elliott Payne has been associated with the progressive minority of five council members this term. He said the election results showed that grassroots organizing is more powerful than money. 

Payne said the council’s been working this term to better define their role in a ‘strong mayor’ system, and that a progressive majority would work with members in the minority to provide a counterbalance to the power of the mayor.

Outside groups played a big role in this year’s municipal election. 

The group Minneapolis for the Many endorsed and supported progressive candidates, raising more than $200,000. 

Chair Chelsea McFarren says the group elected four out of five of their endorsed candidates even though they were outraised by the opposing PAC. McFarren said that shows that many residents agree with the progressive policies the candidates support. 

“I think our left faction can stick to their core values and also bring in the minority,” McFarren said. “I hope this is an opportunity for folks to work across the left aisle and be more united.” 

All of Mpls, the outside group that backed more moderate candidates, did not respond to requests for comment by deadline. But campaign finance filings show the organization raised more than $700,000 this year.

With the microscope still on Minneapolis following George Floyd’s killing and issues like the 2040 plan, Schultz said it’s likely that outside money will continue to flow into the city’s elections.

Both the mayor and city council will be on the ballot in 2025, and mayor Frey said he plans to run again.