A nameless intern turns Minneapolis' mayor race into a hapless sitcom

Minneapolis city Council member Jacob Frey

Minneapolis city Council member Jacob Frey Star Tribune

The knavery began six weeks ago.  

On January 3 Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey officially announced his challenge to unseat Mayor Betsy Hodges.

Frey's kick off event at Dangerous Man Brewing Co. in northeast Minneapolis felt like equal parts Tough Mudder pep rally and Tony Robbins' seminar. Hollering and team spirit battle cries dominated the evening. 

Reports of increased lactic acid levels from fist bumps and high-fives were beginning to stream in when an immaculate internet conception gave the world the "Jacob Frey for Minneapolis Mayor" Facebook page.

Which wouldn't have been weird except for the fact that the page was neither Frey's brainchild nor the creation of anyone inside his camp.

The same would hold true for other soon-to-debut social media accounts.

"Draft Jacob Frey for Congress" Twitter and Facebook pages appeared.

"We need Jacob Frey in Washington!" was the Twitter declaration.

"Congress needs Jacob Frey," the Facebook page read. "Jacob has always worked incredibly hard, building diverse coalitions, and quite simply getting things done."

Were these the handiwork of an admirer? 

Nobody knew.

In any case, the pages were apparently concocted to portray Frey in a battleship gray light. Here was the first-term council member with the drive of an overly-ambitious star chaser who only was seeking the mayoral post as a steppingstone to sexier titles in Washington, D.C.  

For the visitors to the Facebook page whom wanted more information, a website was listed: Unfortunately, it was a link to nowhere. 

When the going then got weirder, the weird turned amateur as first reported by the Star Tribune's Adam Belz.

On January 9, Hodges' campaign manager Jorge Contreras posted a job opening through the website, which posts career opportunities in Democratic politics. The ad said it was looking to hire a campaign finance director. Respondents were directed to Contreras' official campaign email.

Last week an almost identical job post appeared on the same site. Whereas the first said the campaign was that of "Mayor Hodges for Minneapolis," the second simply read a "Minneapolis Mayoral Campaign."

Moreover, the latter posting came from the email [email protected]

Three days later, a post appeared for a finance director position for "Draft Jacob Frey for Congress" on the same website. The listed email address was none other than [email protected]

Belz contacted Contreras. He initially denied that he and the Hodges' campaign had anything to do with the Frey job listing. Contreras went so far as to tell Belz that maybe it was done by a Frey staffer, who created the post to make it appear as if it had come from Hodges' people.

Two hours later, Contreras was telling Belz another story: That some overly zealous, nameless intern was responsible. 

"… It did come from us," he told Belz, while refusing to divulge the intern's name. "We're not going to throw anybody under the bus."

Leave that to the person in charge.

Mayor Hodges, who had said she "did not know about [the job post incident] until it was brought to my attention," botched her subsequent apology to Frey.

Her Facebook mea culpa mentioned a "false account to draft Jacob Frey for Congress." It didn't say anything about the fictitious job ad.

The mention wasn't lost on fellow Facebooker Tony Webster. He asked: "Were the Facebook and Twitter accounts for 'Jacob Frey for Congress' also made by your campaign?"

The mayor would answer the question via Facebook on Valentine's Day morning, writing, "I made a mistake in my apology — the team member did make the false job posting, but the team was not involved in any other posts or accounts."

With that issue totally clarified now, there's been additional closure on two other matters. Since the Strib ran its first story about the job ad, the corresponding "Draft Jacob Frey for Congress" Twitter and Facebook pages have disappeared.

Contreras declined comment, referring questions to campaign spokesperson Alida Tieberg.

Tieberg's written statement reiterated the mayor's admission that "a member of the campaign team had created a false job posting," while "my campaign team had not been involved with the creation of websites or other ['Draft Frey'] materials."

Frey declined comment for this story.