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Rybak, McLaughlin advance in Minneapolis mayor race
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R.T. Rybak says his strategy of door knocking throughout the city paid off. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak will face Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin in the race for mayor of Minneapolis. Rybak advanced to the November ballot after receiving 44 percent of the vote. McLaughlin received 35 percent. Rybak says the primary victory gives him the needed momentum to win in November but McLaughlin says Rybak doesn't have the support he thinks he has.

Minneapolis, Minn. — R.T. Rybak says this primary victory is special because it came at a time when he received heavy criticism for his record on public safety. The city's police union has been running radio ads blaming Rybak for the city's increase in violent crime. The union and its president John Delmonico have been urging voters to choose "anyone but Rybak" in the primary. Rybak says the tactic backfired.

"Today the people spoke and John Delmonico and his Swift Boat full of special interests sunk," Rybak said.

Rybak says his strategy of door knocking throughout the city paid off. Rybak said he reminded every voter of the city's recent successes: "We said a couple very basic things - We want you to look at your city today and remind you what it was four years ago. Four years ago we looked at the vacant hunk of the Sears building and today it's under construction with 1400 jobs and a global marketplace. That's leadership."

Rybak will now face fellow DFLer Peter McLaughlin in the primary. McLaughlin has also been critical of Rybak's record on public safety and questions his leadership style. Before a crowd at Broadway Pizza in North Minneapolis, McLaughlin said he's encouraged by the results. Noting that Green Party candidate Farheen Hakeem picked up 14 percent of the vote, McLaughlin observed that the majority of people voting in the primary voted for someone other than Rybak.

"The fact of the matter is that nine months ago if anybody had described what we did tonight, nobody would have believed it," McLaughlin said. "There weren't a dozen people in this city who believed that this mayor could be taken on. We are doing it because are message is right. We're going to have safe streets, we're going to have strong neighborhoods and we're going to have excellent public schools."

Both McLaughlin and Rybak wasted no time reaching out to those who supported others in the race. Rybak says he'll ask for Hakeem's endorsement in the coming weeks. But Hakeem says she won't endorse either candidate and will write in her own name on the November ballot.

"My support is not for sale because the future of Minneapolis is not for sale," she said. "If I was going to vote for Peter and R.T. tomorrow, Sept. 14, then I would have never ran in the first place."

The race for mayor will take a new dynamic now that there are only two candidates on the November ballot. Rybak's campaign manager said his candidate will be forced to make his case to a larger universe of voters. He expects voter turnout in November will be much larger than Tuesday's 15 percent turnout of eligible voters.

In the City Council races, Councilmember Dean Zimmermann advanced to the November election in the 6th Ward. The Green Party member will face Councilmember Robert Lilligren. The two incumbents have to run against each other because they were redistricted into the same ward. Zimmermann is the subject of an FBI investigation for allegedly taking bribes from a developer in exchange for help on a zoning issue. The investigation seemed to have little impact on Tuesday's primary. Lilligren received 48 percent of the vote while Zimmermann received 44 percent. Before a crowd of Green Party members at the Cabooze, Zimmermann proclaimed his innocence.

"It's time to party and the answer to the question is, no I'm not guilty of any of the things charged," Zimmerman said. In other city council races, Ralph Remington and Scott Persons, both DFLers, will square off for the open seat in Ward 10. Former city Councilmember Lisa McDonald will face Betsy Hodges for Ward 13's open seat. Marie Hauser and Elizabeth Glidden will face each other Ward 8's open seat.

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