Tom Hoch rides wave of cash and fawning media coverage, achieving “plausible” status

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Like me, you may be grappling with the question: Why should I take mayoral candidate Tom Hoch seriously? He’s kind of an uninspiring figure, running a conservative campaign by Minneapolis standards, and I don’t know a single person who’s supporting him.

First, let’s talk about Hoch’s campaign and message. He’s positioned himself as the fiscally conservative candidate. At a mayoral forum on June 15, Hoch said he wants “property taxes at as low a level as possible.” This is consistent with Hoch’s constant social media pronouncements referencing Minneapolis homeowners overburdened by property taxes. No other candidate hits the property tax message as hard and consistently as Hoch.

On housing, Hoch presents himself as the candidate most skeptical of building new housing in Minneapolis. At that same June 15 forum (hosted by a non-profit formed by the wealthy, white residents of tall condo towers because they needed an entity to file a lawsuit to stop the construction of a slightly taller condo tower) he pandered to people he says have told him, “If I wanted to move to Brooklyn, I would have moved to Brooklyn.” He’s tweeted that people have told him “we’re over the tipping-point” in terms of growth.

Tom Hoch recounts these conversations, without challenging the content of these statements, because he is intentionally running a campaign that’s targeted at residents resistant to change. If that’s how he campaigns, that’s who he’ll favor once in office.

But if you really want to learn about Tom Hoch, you need to go to the tweets. Tom Hoch’s Twitter account is unlike any other politician in Minneapolis. Every week or so, his social media team fires off a few dozen tweets, containing many of the same talking points he tweeted the week before, and the week before that. It’s repetitive, but also instructive. Here are the big themes from Hoch’s tweets:

1. “Food could help bridge the urban-rural divide.”
My favorite Hochism is the constant call for briding the urban-rural divide with food. I suppose it’s a call for healing in the Trump-era. But it’s a weird thing to keep saying over and over, especially when you’re running explicitly to become the “first gay Mayor of Minneapolis,” a job title that’s sure to make you the most hated man in rural Minnesota.

2. Hoch has an exclusively negative outlook on a minimum wage increase.
Tom Hoch’s message on the minimum wage is always negative, never positive. He never calls for raising the wage. His public attitude is resignation that a wage increase will happen, while also warning of its “consequences.” It’s great to be prepared for the unexpected, but the universal negativity makes it hard to believe he supports raising the wage, even though that’s his official position (I think).

3. “FYI: the Nicollet Mall project is NOT on time.”

Would be wild if @TomHochMpls based half of his campaign on complaining about Nicollet Mall, when hey look:

— Ben Somogyi (@brsomogyi) June 24, 2017

4. Tom Hoch vows to never consult with colleagues via text message.
This is a finger-wag at Mayor Hodges for circumstances surrounding her rescinding Police Chief Janee Harteau’s appointment of John Delmonico as Inspector of the MPD’s 4th Precinct. Tom Hoch wants you to know he has a problem with the early 21st-century practice of consulting with colleagues via text message. But Tom Hoch has never said whether he has a problem with Chief Harteau putting a widely reviled police figure in one of the most sensitive law enforcement jobs in Minneapolis (Delmonico is the man who helped kick off #pointergate, a contrived scandal premised on the racist idea that an obviously innocent gesture showed a black man to be a dangerous criminal.)

Now, the question: why should we pay attention to this uninspiring campaign? After months of fading into the background, Hoch recently started spending lots of money on advertising and expensive campaign swag. His campaign produced a large number of Wheaties-style “cereal boxes” (containing mints, not cereal) to distribute during Pride weekend. The campaign sponsored an issue of Lavender Magazine. Hoch’s most visible spending was for a (plagiarized) television commercial, currently running on local broadcast and cable channels. No other candidate has a TV ad.

Tom Hoch’s plagiarized TV ad.

Tom Hoch’s giant rolling cereal box at the Minneapolis Pride parade.
(video produced by Wedge LIVE, not Tom Hoch’s campaign)

First impression. Little white balls aren’t gonna bridge the urban rural divide. #unboxing

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) June 24, 2017

Hennepin Ave littered with Tom Hoch cereal boxes, discarded after parade watchers realize they contain no food. #HochHoax

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) June 25, 2017

Lavender Magazine, brought to you by Tom Hoch.

Hoch’s spending stands out as extravagant — some would say wasteful or desperate — but it’s earning his campaign at least some return on investment. Consider the free, uncritical media coverage Hoch has received as a result of his TV commercial. There were two stories on WCCO alone (12).

During a fluffy WCCO-TV interview with Esme Murphy on Sunday, Hoch and his husband repeatedly called the ad “authentic.” Considering this was an interview focused entirely on a candidate’s television ad, Murphy should have asked how Hoch can present himself as the “creative” candidate at the same time he’s plagiarizing another politician’s commercial.

And it’s not just WCCO that’s inclined to take it easy on Hoch. The Star Tribune wrote about Hoch’s ad, but very generously called it a “spoof” rather than a blatant rip off.

Mark and I were interviewed by Esme Murphy of WCCO!

— Tom Hoch (@TomHochMpls) June 25, 2017

Another reason to pay attention to Tom Hoch: he’s got an unregistered, and therefore illegal, anonymous right-wing PAC supporting his campaign on Facebook. The “Anyone But Betsy” page became somewhat prominent on Facebook for spending a lot of money on ads against Mayor Hodges, racking up thousands of likes. In addition to criticism of the mayor, the page has also increasingly singled out Tom Hoch for praise.
Anyone But Betsy But Hopefully Tom Hoch

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) June 27, 2017


If the race for mayor remains a muddled field of candidates following a likely no-endorsement at the DFL City Convention in July, Tom Hoch could be well-positioned. Lack of money won’t be the thing that stops his campaign from competing all the way to November (finance report deadlines mean that we won’t see what Hoch’s spent or who’s funding his campaign until August). There’s no reason to think Hoch won’t continue to be the beneficiary of uncritical media attention, like his WCCO appearance to gripe about Nicollet Mall or the two WCCO stories focused on his (plagiarized) television commercial. All of which means the most conservative of the plausible candidates for Mayor of Minneapolis might have better odds than you think.