MPRAC candidates in the 2009 Minneapolis city elections

Watchdog publisher James Elliot Swartwood, together with John Butler and Watchdog reporter Bill McGaughey, ran for public office in the Minneapolis city election held on November 3, 2009. Swartwood, a candidate for Board of Estimate & Taxation, received 971 First Choice votes. Butler, running for a Park Board at large position, received 1,110 First Choice votes. McGaughey, running for mayor of Minneapolis, received 230 First Choice votes. This was the first year in which Minneapolis city elections used the Ranked Choice Voting system that allowed voters to vote for up to three candidates for each position, ranking the candidates in order of preference.

Swartwood, Butler, and McGaughey ran under the auspices of New Dignity Party, an organization created in July 2009. Its package of issues included (1) a paradigm shift in the politics of identity, (2) opposition to the use of inspections for reasons other than building safety or public health, and (3) criticism of the way the commercial media have covered elections.

Unlike other elections, the contest for mayor received little attention as the commercial media delared R.T. Rybak the winner early on. (He did win with 73% of the vote.) On the other hand, the contest for Board of Estimate & Taxation, normally an obscure office, received much attention this year. That was partly because the ballot included a proposed amendment that would have abolished this board and given its powers to the City Council. Even though Rybak and other office holders supported this amendment, voters rejected it by a two-to-one margin.

New Dignity Party candidates campaigned largely on the basis of placing 180 lawn signs in yards around the city. Also, there was some literature distribution. The party had a website at which presented its candidates and discussed issues in position papers. There were few candidate debates. The League of Women Voters - Minneapolis, for instance, decided not to host a mayoral debate this year.

In the absence of a contest at the top of the ticket, voter turnout in the Minneapolis general election was the lowest since 1902. Only 45,964 persons cast votes in the 2009 city elections compared with 161,713 votes cast in 1937. When Hubert Humphrey ran for mayor in 1947, he received 102,796 in his successful bid for office. Admittedly, the population of Minneapolis has shrunk in recent years, but there is also growing voter apathy.

Persons desiring an inside view of the mayor’s race from the point of view of McGaughey, the New Dignity party candidate, will find a 47,000-word narrative posted at This book-length manuscript also contains sixty photos related to the campaign.

Three days after winning re-election as Minneapolis mayor. R.T. Rybak announced that he would seek the DFL endorsement for Governor of Minnesota in 2010. He is considered one of the chief contenders.

Even though the election results were disappointing to the New Dignity Party candidates, a bright spot was acknowledgment by the Star Tribune editorial board that the city’s current crime-fighting policy, focused on problem properties, may be misguided. The newspaper’s editorial published on October 25th states: “Landlord Bill McGaughey is right to question whether targeting ‘problem properties’ rather than criminal conduct itself is either a just or effective crime-fighting strategy.”

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