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Two of the leading candidates challenging Jacob Frey made a public declaration Wednesday to rank each other as their second choice.

Kate Knuth and Sheila Nezhad made the announcement Wednesday morning, pledging to list the other as No. 2 on their ranked-choice ballots. Both also urged voters to do the same, while simultaneously criticizing the current Minneapolis mayor.

Nezhad, a 33-year-old community organizer, said the current city leadership has "failed to meet the challenges" of the past 18 months, and said her opponent, Knuth, would be a "welcome change" at City Hall.

Knuth, meanwhile, praised Nezhad for her "commitment to true public safety for everyone." The 40-year-old former state representative and sustainability scientist also said she will not include Frey in any position on her ballot, writing: "His failure to lead throughout this year-and-a-half-long crisis has left us more divided and less safe and has left Minneapolis’ national and international reputation at rock bottom."

The two mayoral candidates are the latest Democrats to denounce Frey, a fellow DFLer who is wrapping up a first term that took place during a tumultuous time in the city. That included the murder of George Floyd and subsequent unrest, ongoing questions about aggressive officer behavior and an internal "pullback" within the Minneapolis Police Department and the still-simmering COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the public denouncing from Knuth and Nezhad, Frey's campaign released a statement accusing his challengers of shifting their opinions on police funding, decrying "the limitations of cheap slogans and the reactionary politics of the defund push."

“I’ve led with principle and told voters the truth — regardless of what’s popular,” Frey said in his rbeuttal. “Amid a field of candidates jockeying to speak for the Black community and those most impacted by crime and police misconduct, I’ve been listening. That is the fundamental difference between my approach and my opponents’.”

In response to this, Knuth tweeted: "Frey knows he’s lying and fear-mongering. I've repeatedly pledged to maintain police staffing levels for at least two years, and expand public safety funding. The police department isn't going anywhere as long as I'm mayor. Our police force has shrunk because of Frey's mismanagement. We have become less safe during the years the mayor has had exclusive control over the police."

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Frey has received some high-profile endorsements from local leaders, including Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison, as well as various workers' unions. But both Knuth and Nezhad were this week endorsed by Minnesota's 5th District Rep. Ilhan Omar.

He remains staunchly opposed to the ballot question that would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety that would include police officers (though does support the creation of such a department). He has also expressed support for the first ballot question, which would consolidate more departmental power under the mayor (though the mayor already has full authority over MPD).

Both Knuth and Nezhad feel the opposite, having expressed support for the Department of Public Safety-related charter amendment, and saying they intend to vote no on the "strong mayor" question (a decision Knuth recently came to).

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