Update: Openly polyamorous city council candidate Justin Adams eyes election reform, legal marijuana

Justin Adams is used to fighting for poly acceptance on Reddit, so he's ready to tackle the cut-throat world of municipal politics as a polyamorous candidate.

Justin Adams is used to fighting for poly acceptance on Reddit, so he's ready to tackle the cut-throat world of municipal politics as a polyamorous candidate. Justin Adams

UPDATE: Eight hours after this story was published, Justin Adams told City Pages he is dropping out of the race. He declined to explain why.

Minneapolis has a knack for breaking records in politics. If voters continue that trend by carrying Justin Adams to the city council, he would be the first openly polyamorous elected official in the United States.

In 2012, City Pages ran an interview with Adams’ partner, Julia Janousek, about the unexpected normalcy of being married, raising kids, and finding acceptance as a practicing polyamorous person.

They were happy to talk about the lifestyle then, and the 37-year-old Adams isn’t afraid to be known as the poly candidate now as he pursues the Ward 3 seat soon to be vacated by Jacob Frey, who is running for mayor.

“Honesty is such an important characteristic to a political candidate, I just don’t think it’s plausible to run for office while trying to hide who I am,” Adams says. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the website Reddit advocating and giving relationship and sex advice from the polyamorous point of view. It’s something I have a lot of experience dealing in. I’ve encountered a lot of reluctance and fear of my lifestyle, so I am aware of it, but so far for this election, I haven’t seen anything negative about my polyamory anywhere.”

A Hennepin County Health and Human Services employee who spends his 9-5 crunching the cost of services for disabled residents, Adams has a record of progressive politics and is an advocate for the living wage campaign, improving police-community relations, and above all, elections reform. Legalizing marijuana has something to do with that too.

He wants residents to be able to pass ordinances through ballot initiatives. It was disappointing, Adams says, to have seen two hard-fought attempts this summer – raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour and having police purchase professional liability insurance – get rejected by the city attorney after activists spent months gathering signatures, making sure they’d followed all the rules.

He also wants to limit the amount of money that political candidates can receive. Because individual donors can give up to $1,000 per candidate for city-wide races, he feels that a small percentage of wealthy residents can have undue influence. The result tends to be meager voter turnout.

The last council elections in 2013 had more votes cast in Ward 3 than most other places, but even then turnout was only 31 percent.

On marijuana – which lots of people want to legalize these days, from the bleeding heart liberal to the hardline libertarian – Adams would like to see the end of prohibition because it has disenfranchised huge blocks of people of color and lower income voters. 

"It doesn't matter if I'm your first, second, or third choice for city council, or whether you're a Democrat, a Green, or a supporter of some other party," he says. "It is vitally important for progressives of all stripes to show up for DFL caucuses on April 4.

"Sanders supporters broke the caucus system last year. If progressives can do that again in this municipal election year and in next year's midterms, we can set the agenda for our city and have an oversized influence on state policy as we move toward redistricting in 2020."