The St. Paul City Council and School Board election on November 8th will garner much attention – not only for the large number of candidates challenging incumbents, but as a test for the city’s and the county election bureau’s implementation of the new voter-approved Ranked Choice Voting system, passed in 2009, which eliminated the traditional primary in favor of one November general election that will tally multiple voter choices generally until reaching a single majority winner for the council seats and four top vote getters in the school board race. (Ward Three ranked-choice sample ballot here.)
Starting last week with the crowded Ward 2 field, TruthToTell is devoting more than four weeks to St. Paul’s elections – in the fervent hope that voters will stop giving their local government(s) short shrift and get to the polls in numbers higher than the all-too-common 15%-35% turnouts. This week we present the Ward 3 candidates. Next week, October 24, Ward 1; the following week,Ward 5 on the 31st. The other races have nominal or no opposition for the incumbents.
Ward 3’s Pat Harris is departing, opening up that race in way it hasn’t for nearly 20 years given that Harris’ predecessor was his brother, Mike. The only race without an incumbent means a high-stakes scramble for Harris’ successor, given his penchant for consistently supporting his old friend Mayor Chris Coleman’s agenda. Deep schism has surfaced within the DFL over this seat, despite the official nonpartisan nature of city elections.
Four candidates are competing in Ward 3. Three of the four have old DFL ties, but just one is endorsed in this NONPARTISAN race. The DFL endorsement convention was something of a donnybrook of “outsider” involvement, including Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Mayor Chris Coleman, who lives on St. Paul’s West Side. No party association accompanies a ballot name in city elections. A key issue in this race should be the future of the Ford Assembly Plant site, which goes vacant very soon after nearly 88 years of operation with few stoppages. Of all the city’s council districts, Ward 3 boasts the highest per capita income and remains a slight swing district politically, able to still elect a more conservative candidate when it suits the electorate.
(These candidates also will participate in an October 19th candidate forum at Hillcrest Recreation Center, 1978 Ford Parkway in St. Paul, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Macalester-Groveland Community Council and the Highland District Council (Info: 651-695-4000 or 651-695-4005.)