Rybak Announcement Creates Open Race for Mayoral Office

Updated: 12/28/2012 8:07 AM KSTP.com By: Scott Theisen

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said Thursday he won't seek a fourth term as head of Minnesota's largest city, creating the first open race for the office in two decades.

Rybak's announcement came less than a year before voters in the city of almost 400,000 residents will choose a mayor. Several potential candidates were waiting on Rybak to decide before declaring whether they would run, and the field is likely to be large.

Rybak said the job has required personal sacrifices, "and right now, I owe it to those around me, and to myself, to get a bit more balance in my life. I also think that after 12 years, the city will benefit from a fresh perspective."

The Democratic mayor known for setting a vigorous pace vowed to pursue an aggressive agenda in his final year.

"So fasten your seatbelts. This lame duck isn't quacking yet," he said.

The decision should ramp up speculation about Rybak's next political move. The 57-year-old has been mentioned as a possible addition to President Barack Obama's administration or a future contender for governor. Rybak recently opened a state political action committee that will allow him to play a more prominent role in state races. He also is vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee and said he will seek another term in that position next year.

Rybak made clear he still covets the governor's seat, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will run again in 2014 and hopes to lock it down for their party until 2018. Rybak said he won't rule out other options in the public or private sectors. He expressed a preference for remaining in the city after he steps down.

Minneapolis hasn't had a wide-open mayoral race since 1993.

Democrats have dominated city elections in modern times; Hubert H. Humphrey was Minneapolis' mayor before his election to the U.S. Senate and subsequent ascension to the vice presidency. Throughout history, though, more Republicans have held the post than Democrats.

The 2013 race has an added layer of intrigue: It will be conducted under an instant-runoff voting system, which allows voters to choose more than one candidate by ranking them. There won't be a primary.

Among the announced or potential candidates are city council members Betsy Hodges, Gary Schiff and Don Samuels; former city council president Jackie Cherryholmes; Dayton's chief of staff, Tina Smith; and school board member Hussein Samatar.

Schiff launched his bid weeks ago. Within an hour of Rybak's remarks, Hodges issued a statement saying she intends to run. Samatar was at the Rybak news conference but said he didn't want to take attention away from the mayor's announcement.

"It can only be full steam ahead when I truly consult with the community," said Samatar, who is the first Somali-American to hold elective office in Minnesota.

Since Rybak was elected mayor in 2001, the city has undergone a dramatic transformation. Minneapolis benefited some from county, state and federal investment in noteworthy projects, but at other times the city was a major partner.

New sports stadiums for the Minnesota Twins and University of Minnesota football team have been built, though largely by entities beyond City Hall. A third stadium project, for the Minnesota Vikings, is on the way with the help of city financing championed by Rybak. Light-rail transit returned, and two more lines connecting Minneapolis with the rest of the region are in the works.

Tragedy also hit on Rybak's watch, most notably in August 2007, when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed during rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others. The mayor took a front-and-center role in consoling the affected families and planning a replacement span and a memorial to the victims.

Rybak, a former reporter, got his political start as a community activist. He gained notice by fighting for noise mitigation around Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He became mayor by defeating incumbent Sharon Sayles Belton.

He won re-election by comfortable margins in 2005 and 2009. A year later, he ran for governor but got knocked out of a crowded Democratic field at the state party convention.

Click here for the raw video and text of the mayor's announcement.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Council Member Betsy Hodges released this statement on Mayor R.T. Rybak's announcement:

"Today, I am filled with respect and gratitude for Mayor Rybak’s nearly 12 years of service in leading Minneapolis with vision, energy and compassion. His accomplishments in restoring Minneapolis’ financial health, making our city dramatically safer and spearheading Minneapolis’ transformation into a self-confident, nationally-respected city will stand the test of time. I am proud to have worked closely with Mayor Rybak on many initiatives — most especially on putting our city on firm financial footing, and firmly keeping it there — that have made Minneapolis far stronger than it was 12 years ago.

His announcement that he will not seek a fourth term leaves a huge void, but also creates a great opportunity for those of us who believe that Minneapolis can become the great city of the 21st century to do even more to make that happen.

After carefully consulting with family, friends, and people of every neighborhood who care about our city, I intend to run for mayor.

In the coming days, weeks and months, I look forward to hearing from residents about the future of our city and sharing my vision for Minneapolis. That conversation starts today."

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