by Ethan Hiedeman
On November 5, 2013, citizens of Minneapolis went to the polls to elect a new mayor, new city council members, and new park board members. The Sierra Club North Star Chapter played a part in the elections through our volunteer Political Committee. The Political Committee focused on Minneapolis this year, and was charged with choosing candidates to endorse in major city races; as well as, getting out the vote for their endorsed candidates.
The Political Committee, which is made up of 8 nominated volunteers, began its work for this election cycle in earnest last spring, reaching out to announced candidates to fill out questionnaires that would aid in the endorsement selection process. After the questionnaires, candidates came in for screening meetings with the political committee.
Political Committee member Dana Hallstrom said that the screening meetings with candidates were one of her favorite parts of election season. She enjoyed “talking to the candidates on a personal level and seeing what they’re really about.” Hallstrom said she also enjoyed the thoughtful, in-depth discussions by which the political committee came to decisions about their endorsements.
The political committee had all but finalized its endorsements for 2013 by the time the filing deadline approached in early August. According to Hallstrom, some of the decisions were difficult, as there were many candidates with strong environmental credentials, especially among the record-breaking 35 mayoral candidates. The committee finally landed on City Council member Betsy Hodges as its choice for mayor, citing “the depth of her understanding of environmental issues” as well as her proven ability to lead the city to financial stability.
Accepting the Club’s endorsement, Hodges said that the Club’s “commitment to renewable energy, transit and environmental justice are issues central to our campaign to build a city that meets the great environmental challenges of our time.”
Political committee members and Sierra Club volunteers pounded the pavement in support of their endorsed candidates, participating in phone banks, door-knocking events and get-out-the-vote campaigns. The committee also put on a fundraiser that featured outgoing mayor R.T. Rybak as a speaker (The Sierra Club endorsed Rybak early in his first run for mayor in 2001, when he defeated incumbent Sharon Sayles Belton).
The political committee had a near-perfect record this election cycle, with their endorsed candidates winning in all but two of the races in which they made endorsements. The Club focused heavily on the Park Board races, since those candidates are typically less well-known and because the Sierra Club has a lot of authority on issues relating to parks and the outdoors.
But perhaps their biggest victory was Betsy Hodges’, since the committee devoted a lot of time and resources to getting Hodges elected.
The election may be over, but the process of governing is just beginning.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what they accomplish,” Hallstrom said.
Political committee members are taking a well-deserved break in the aftermath of election day 2013, but look for chances to volunteer with them and get involved in the movement to elect environmental champions as they gear up for the 2014 midterm and gubernatorial elections.
Ethan Hiedeman is a Social Media and Blog Writer Intern with the North Star Chapter. He is a graduate of St. Olaf College in environmental studies and political science and hails from Hastings, MN. Ethan loves to write and aspires to tell the important stories of the environmental movement and how people interact with their planet.