Campaign piece attacks Phillipe Cunningham for going broke this one time

MinneapolisWorks! clearly sees Phillipe Cunningham as a threat to Barb Johnson's reelection chances.

MinneapolisWorks! clearly sees Phillipe Cunningham as a threat to Barb Johnson's reelection chances. WedgeLive! Twitter

You'll have to forgive MinneapolisWorks!

The well-heeled gentlmen and ladies behind the corporate-backed group dumping money into city campaigns are not the sort of people who know north Minneapolis. What minimal view they have of the city's grittier neighborhoods is likely obtained through the window of a moving car, as they double-check the doors are locked and instruct the chauffer to "make haste, my good man." 

A couple weeks ago, MinneapolisWorks! tried convincing the less-pale people of north Minneapolis to vote for City Council President Barb Johnson by taking a white mother-son in a stock photo and switching them out for a black duo

The WedgeLive! blog has kept a running list of mail pieces produced by MinneapolisWorks!, which has exclusively backed more moderate incumbents (who are often touted as "progressive") while attacking their opponents as unqualified neophytes and/or dangerous radicals

This week, MinneapolisWorks! is going negative against one of Johnson's opponents, Phillipe Cunningham. Johnson's also being challenged by liberal activist Stephanie Gasca and Libertarian Stephanie Hansen, but it's become obvious MinneapolisWorks! sees Cunningham, who is seeking to become one of the first transgender elected officials in American history, as the biggest threat to the council president's reelection.

In a hit piece now arriving on Ward 4 doorsteps, the political action committee says Cunningham, a former aide to Mayor Betsy Hodges, is not qualified to serve on the city council because this one time a few years ago he ran out of money.

"Even though Phillipe Cunningham wants to raise our taxes and make us pay more, he doesn't think he should need to pay his own bills," reads the mail piece.

The next sentence is highlighted: "Phillipe Cuninngham was so irresponsible with his own bills, he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2013." 

The horror

It is indeed true that in fall 2013, Cunningham declared bankruptcy in Illinois, where he worked as a special education teacher. Cunningham owed tens of thousands of dollars to creditors; the bulk of the debt was for student loans he'd taken out. Cunningham took a financial management course, and the following January, his bankruptcy was discharged. 

In a statement, Cunningham reacted to the MinneapolisWorks! mailer by owning up to "a hard moment in my life," which, he says, makes him sympathetic to the people he wants to represent in city hall.

"This mailer was meant to publicly shame me, but really, my story is that of so many other Northsiders," Cunningham wrote on Facebook. "When I’m out talking to community members, I hear story after story of financial struggle. With our average household income nearly $13,000 less than the rest of the city, many of my neighbors here on the Northside understand what I’ve been through. I have had the kind of real-life experience that so many Northsiders have had, and I will draw on it every day to serve you responsively and responsibly on the City Council."

In other race-related news, Johnson was endorsed yesterday by the Star Tribune editorial board, which praised the council president for using her "powerful position to strike balanced compromises on budget and policy issues."

Cunningham, the editorial board wrote, "needs more seasoning" before he's ready for council service; his personal financial history did not seem to enter into the newspaper's decision.