Brooklyn Park mayoral race: Following the money

Brooklyn Park holds a special primary election for mayor on April 13, 2021. The first campaign finance reporting to the Hennepin County campaign finance office shows the DFL endorsed Hollies Winston with a wide lead in fundraising and one of the candidates operating with a deficit equivalent to the cash on hand of Winston. Photo: Courtesy Explore Minnesota
Brooklyn Park holds a special primary election for mayor on April 13, 2021. The first campaign finance reporting to the Hennepin County campaign finance office shows the DFL endorsed Hollies Winston with a wide lead in fundraising and one of the candidates operating with a deficit equivalent to the cash on hand of Winston. Photo: Courtesy Explore Minnesota

With less than a week until the April 13 special primary election for mayor of Brooklyn Park, three of the Seven candidates running have filed their pre-primary campaign finance report of receipts and expenditures as required by Minnesota law. The campaign finance disclosures were due on Tuesday, April 6 to the Hennepin County campaign finance office.

Seven candidates are running in the contest to succeed former Mayor Jeff Lunde, who left office January 3 after being elected to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners. The mayoral special primary election will be held next week on April 13 although early and absentee voting is already underway. There will be extended in-person voting this Saturday, April 10 at city hall from 10am to 3pm.

The top two candidates will advance to the August 10 special election for mayor.

Hollies Winston and Lisa Jacobson are the only two following the letter and spirit of Minnesota campaign finance laws

Minnesota statutes that govern campaign finance state that within 14 days, a candidate raising or spending at least $100 must register their candidacy or campaign committee. The statutes say registration must occur even if the $100 is from the candidates own pocket. In the case of the Brooklyn Park, that filing is with the Hennepin County elections office.

As of April 6, at the close of business, only Hollies Winston and Lisa Jacobson had registered their campaign committees with Hennepin County. Winston having registered his back in July 2020 and Jacobson on February, 24 2021, shortly after filing her mayoral candidacy with the city.

The non-registration of the other five campaigns would suggest that since February 16 when they had officially registered and April 6, which is a week before the primary, they had spent less than $100.

As this story was about to publish, the Hennepin County elections office indicated Benjamin Osemenam’s campaign committee registration was received by the county on April 7.

Money pours in

As of the writing of this story on April 7 at 5pm after county offices closed for the day, the county had received pre-primary campaign finance report of receipts and expenditures from three of the seven candidates running for Brooklyn Park mayor. The reports were required by yesterday (April 6).

Reports from Benjamin Osemenam, Lisa Jacobson and Hollies Winston had been received by the deadline.

In the case of Osemenam, it shows he was receiving campaign donations as early as February 27 even though he had not registered his campaign finance committee as required by campaign finance laws.

The county has been encouraging candidates to file the reports electronically due to the pandemic but will accept reports via the postal service. As long as the reports arrive postmarked April 6, they will be considered arriving by the deadline and will not incur a fine for late filing.

The three candidates that filed by yesterday’s deadline show that they received thousands of dollars combined, mostly from local donors, including a smattering of the maximum $600 maximum allowed per individual for mayoral elections, according to the Hennepin County Campaign Finance records.

According to the candidates that have filed, their campaign finance reports show more than 45 donations totaling $11,675. That does not include money Winston already raised in 2020 when he started running. The reports filed yesterday cover just the 2021 portion of the campaign.

When you include the money Winston raised late last year, the total contributions directed at the three candidates come to about $22,000.

Because Winston started campaigning last fall, he was required by law to file a year end report by this past February. Based on that report he was able to carry over a healthy cash balance of over $7,000 into the reporting period that ended yesterday (April 6).

Hollies Winston leads the money race

In the context of a mayoral race in a city the size of Brooklyn Park, Mr. Winston is awash in cash. Winston has raised close to $20,000 from almost 80 donors since he started his campaign back in 2020. In the filing period that ended yesterday, he reported spending $19,975 with most of the money going to Google Ads, printing and related campaign materials.

The average contribution to Winston was $250 for the first quarter of 2021 that the April 6 filing covers. He did receive six contributions of $600, which is the maximum a single individual can give to a Brooklyn Park mayoral candidate this year.

The race for Brooklyn park mayor is nonpartisan but Winston is the endorsed candidate of

Hollies Winston leads in fundraising ahead of the April 13 2021 special primary election for mayor of Brooklyn Park. Photo:

the DFL and the campaign finance reports show the party is sending money his way. The Minnesota DFL,  DFL Senate District 36, DFL Senate District 40 and the DFL African American Caucus have each given him the maximum allowed $600.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 292 union, which operates out of Brooklyn Park has also contributed the maximum $600 to the Hollies Winston campaign.

After accounting for campaign expenses which totaled over $7,000, Winston’s report shows he has a cash balance of $5,540, the most of the three candidates that filed by the deadline.

Second in fundraising is Lisa Jacobson who reported receiving just $1,600 from three couples for a total of $1,000 and the maximum $600 from the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters’ political action committee to bring her total haul to $1,600.

The entire $1,600 she raised went to one printing company for printing expenses. No other expenses are listed in her report.

Jacobson reported a balance of just $66 cash on hand.

Benjamin Osemenam’s campaign finance report to the county shows it is operating in the red one week before the special primary election. After raising $1,850 from 14 individuals each giving an average of $100, his campaign reported to Hennepin County that it has a negative balance of -$5, 832.

No donor has contributed the maximum $600 allowed to his campaign. There was a single donor that gave $500.

The Osemenam campaign in their filing reported paying just over $4,000 for flyers and another $2,600 to a mobile texting company. The level of expenditures versus campaign donations received indicate the candidate is for the most part financing his own campaign.

Note: If before the April 13 special primary election for mayor the Hennepin County campaign finance office indicates the other candidates have filed their campaign finance reports for this quarter, this story will be updated. Candidates need to have the reports postmarked by April 6 to be considered compliant.

About Tom Gitaa Gitaa, Editor-in-Chief

Born and raised in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, Tom is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Mshale which has been reporting on the news and culture of African immigrants in the United States since 1995. He has a BA in Business from Metro State University and a Public Leadership Credential from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He was the original host of Talking Drum, the signature current affairs show on the African Broadcasting Network (ABN-America), which was available nationwide in the United States via the Dish Network satellite service. On the show, he interviewed Nobel laureates such as 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner, Professor Wangari Maathai, the first woman from Africa to win the peace prize and heads of states. Tom has served and chaired various boards including Global Minnesota (formerly Minnesota International Center), the sixth largest World Affairs Council in the United States. He has previously served as the first Black President of the Board of Directors at Books for Africa. He also serves on the boards of New Vision Foundation and the Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium. He has previously served two terms on the board of the United Nations Association. An avid runner, he retired from running full marathons after turning 50 and now only focuses on training for half marathons.

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