There are two solid candidates in Ramsey County's First District. Blake Huffman gets our nod over Frank Mabley.

Huffman, elected to the Shoreview City Council in 1996, has a track record of advocating for smart, streamlined governance. Yet he does not have a reflexive antigovernment philosophy. Rather, reflecting his job as a vice president of strategy at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, he plans to be data-driven in analyzing spending. That's the right approach in these budget-challenged times.

Huffman acknowledges the county's role in providing health and human services, public safety and infrastructure, but wants them to be more cost-effective. He also recognizes the importance of east side mass transit options, although he should remain flexible when it comes to the eventual method. He favors getting the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) Superfund site back on the tax rolls, although he has not ruled out preserving some of it as green space.

Mabley, an attorney, would bring intelligence and integrity to the board, but he is less experienced in governance. We also preferred Huffman's greater emphasis on efficiency.

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In the Second District, two very different candidates -- Mary Jo McGuire and Sue Jeffers -- offer unique perspectives and talents.

McGuire, a DFL state senator who was redistricted out of her seat, also served for 14 years as a state representative. With a business degree from St. Catherine University, a law degree from Hamline University and a master's in public administration from Harvard, the St. Catherine adjunct professor brings political and academic perspectives that serve her well.

Jeffers doesn't have a similar background, but she does have hands-on experience dealing with citizens and government during her 30 years owning a Minneapolis bar. Her outspoken opposition to the smoking ban, as well as strong stands on tax-increment financing and eminent domain, gained her considerable attention and, more recently, a talk-radio show (paused while she runs for office).

McGuire says she favors a balanced approach to budget balancing and strategic investment in mass transit. Her ties to the Legislature should help her lobby for necessary state investment. She also favors targeted social spending and the county playing some kind of role in developing at least part of the TCAAP site.

Jeffers says her top priorities are property taxes, declining home values and jobs. These are appropriate concerns, yet it's less likely that Jeffers will make the needed investments to grow jobs and keep Ramsey County competitive.

Accordingly, we favor McGuire.