We contend the institution of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in municipal elections, is having a detrimental effect on the value of the DFL endorsement. This election we are expecting the races for mayor in both Minneapolis and St Paul will move forward sans endorsement. The reality of this threat first came into existence prior to the institution of (RCV), with the blocking of the endorsement of the endorsement for Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton (DFL) by R. T. Rybak (DFL) in 2001. Of course, as is often the case, once elected, the incumbent officeholder (Rybak) sought and received the DFL endorsement in 2005.
The desire for change is a strong motivator, though not always thoughtful, because of the unintended consequences of any action. The impetus for change from a single voting, majority rule system was precipitated mainly in Minneapolis as local politicians were contending with Green Party challenges. These misguided liberals/progressive DFLers thought, since we have a common bond over environmental issues, if a system could be created that placated the “Greens” then they can ultimately vote for us, the DFL. Wrong. They are another political party. The Greens want power, pure and simple, and not to be the red-headed stepchild of the DFL Party.
The current malaise of RCV, fosters a system of mediocrity, under the guise of benevolence, where there is less political acrimony and more conformity. It facilitates a false sense of success through its aspirational claims of higher turnout, less conflict, and lower costs, while the opposites are true. Turnout remains flat, third party groups have picked up the conflictual club, due to Citizen’s United, and mount attack campaigns instead of the candidates themselves, and the systemic costs are greater while providing less true clarity one the qualities of the candidates.
In the Mill City, we expect incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges (DFL) will not receive the DFL endorsement and neither will several the Minneapolis City Council members. The main reason being everyone is in the boat in November due to RCV, and there is no clear incentive why anyone should withdraw, prior. To date the field of candidates seeking the DFL endorsement for the “weak” mayoral post consists of: incumbent Mayor Hodges (DFL), Ward 3 City Council Member Jacob Frey (DFL), State Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL- 59B, Minneapolis), Al Flowers, Aswar Rahman, and Captain Jack Sparrow. Sparrow, who ran in 2013 as Count All Rankings, caucused DFL this go-round.
The field will likely be smaller this election, because the filing fee for mayor was raised to from $50 to $500, and will likely reduce the number of pretender contenders. As we have heard former NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds is not seeking the DFL endorsement, if elected without another declaration, Levy-Pounds is the Black Lives Matter candidate.
In 2013, Hodges blocked her opponent Mark Andrew from receiving the endorsement, same as Rybak¸ a Hodges supporter, did in 2001. We expect the tables to be turned, and this go round, Hodges, a truly unpopular mayor, may face the Rybak effect. We find it incredibly interesting when seeing women in office when challenged by men as not being good enough especially from progressives. One would thought that a woman being in office is progressive at the onset.
In the Capitol city, the precinct caucuses are this weekend and next, held on both Saturday and Sunday. The listing of the dates and times are found on the St Paul City DFL website.
The contest for mayor currently, consists of six declared candidates four DFLers: current Council Member Dai Thao, former City Council members Melvin Carter III, Pat Harris, and former School Board member Tom Goldstein, who is the clear longshot on the DFL side. Green Party candidate Elizabeth Dickinson and Independent candidate Tom Holden join the field.
Traditionally, St Paul is a DFL town, although more conservative that its westerly twin, Minneapolis. This election being the first open mayoral contest under RCV will provide voters with clear choices, but less resolution. Again, as the debate between candidates occurs few differences between the principles emerge. Since everyone is on the November ballot and seeking the support of the other candidates’ voters second choice, they fail to differentiate themselves for fear of alienating voters.
With the start of the St Paul Precinct caucuses we will begin to see how the campaigns are taking shape and from the declared sub-caucuses see if a front-runner emerges. We are doubtful.
IRV at the DFL Convention
A conversation is starting about applying the system of Instant Run-Off Voting in the DFL mayoral endorsement. The principal advocate for this idea is C&B Publisher, and Executive Director of the St Paul Votes Smarter campaign Shawn Towle. When asked why apply IRV to the DFL Towle said, “If St Paul voters are expected to choose their mayor by a Ranked Voting system, advocated by the DFL Party, then the St Paul DFL would be hypocritical not to use it for their own selection method.” He continued, “Testing this system in a smaller situation with significant consequences, will provide an opportunity for supporters to experience the full impact of this social experiment.”