SHARECOMMENTMORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minneapolis City Council member Betsy Hodges is the early leader in the race to be the next mayor of Minnesota's largest city.

Hodges led comfortably Tuesday night as returns were nearly complete, but the city's ranked-choice voting system meant no winner was expected to be declared until Wednesday at the earliest.

Hodges had nearly 36 percent of the vote with nearly all the city's precincts reporting, with former Hennepin County commissioner Mark Andrew well back at 25 percent.

Andrew said he wouldn't make an official concession speech until the second round of votes had been counted, but acknowledged he trails Hodges by a wide margin. At a campaign party, hethanked supporters and told them "This has been a wonderful but difficult and trying experience. But I'm OK and I want all of you to be OK."

Don Samuels also thanked his supporters saying, "We knew we'd be in third place. We knew we had the number one issue."

City election officials will eliminate losing candidates and award second- and third-place choices to the remaining candidates until a winning candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote. Election officials said they will begin tabulating second round votes no earlier than noon on Wednesday.

Tuesday's ballot listed 35 candidates for mayor, many of them fringe candidates who paid a small filing fee to get on the ballot.

Hodges is a former budget chair. Both she and Andrew were among several Democrats who wanted to succeed two-term Mayor R.T. Rybak, who didn't seek re-election.