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It was more an avalanche than a landslide Tuesday for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who easily secured a third term.
In the St. Paul school board race, candidates endorsed by the DFL Party — attorney Chue Vue, and incumbents Jean O’Connell and John Brodrick — were elected to three seats, easily outdistancing two other candidates including the city’s Republican leader.
In the city’s only contested council race, political newcomers Dai Thao and Noel Nix emerged in a tight contest to represent the First Ward on the City Council for the next two years. The winner won’t be known until Monday, when Ramsey County allocates the ranked-choice votes.
Both the mayoral and the First Ward elections were governed by ranked-choice voting, which requires a candidate to take more than 50 percent of first-choice or subsequent ballots.
That wasn’t an issue for DFL-endorsed Coleman, whose vote tally quickly zoomed toward 80 percent, outpacing his impressive 69 percent showings against incumbent Randy Kelly in 2005 and businesswoman Eva Ng in 2009. Running a distant second was businessman Tim Holden.
“As a St. Paul kid, to have this overwhelming support from the town I grew up is a big honor,” Coleman said late Tuesday. “But that just means you have more work to do.”
Coleman’s triumph ensures that later this month he will become president of the National League of Cities, a high-profile role that the mayor said Tuesday will give him a chance to advocate on a national level for issues of interest to the city.
“It elevates the profile of St. Paul,” he said, putting him in front of national policymakers and influential groups and organizations.
Coleman said his priorities for his third term include closing the achievement gap in schools between white and minority students, finding more efficient ways to do the city’s business, redeveloping four key downtown sites, and leveraging the new light-rail Green Line and the Saints’ downtown ballpark to draw private development.
Much of his work, he said, will be to build on gains already made in his first two terms: growing enthusiasm about St. Paul as an entertainment destination, a realistic budget process pegged to permanent revenue sources, and the long-awaited demolition of the former Ford auto plant in Highland Park.
“Our work is really just beginning,” the mayor said after returns were posted. “We have laid the foundation for the things we need to do. We have all the pieces in place, but we need to bring it home.”
Coleman said he wants to do more for city neighborhoods, now that the economy has stabilized after years of recession.
“When I took office eight years ago, we started to look at redevelopment of all of our neighborhoods,” he said. “Then we had the hurricane of the foreclosure crisis and we had to shift our focus to an emergency management approach rather than long-term revitalization.”
First Ward contest
On Tuesday, Thao led on the first-choice ballots, followed by Nix, and led Nix in second and third choices as well.
Both are DFLers and were among the top candidates in endorsements and fundraising. Running in third place was neighborhood organizer Johnny Howard, who was endorsed by the Green Party.
St. Paul City Council races typically are staged in non-mayoral election years. But the First Ward race was prompted by the resignation last summer of Melvin Carter III, who left the council to take a state job.
The winner will take office on Nov. 21 after the City Council officially declares a winner, and serve the remaining two years of Carter’s term before having to face re-election.