The off-year race for St. Paul’s Fourth Ward City Council seat is attracting thousands of dollars in donations from outside the city — mostly for one candidate.
Mitra Jalali Nelson’s campaign has raised the most: $26,747, with about $14,000 coming from donors outside St. Paul and more than $3,600 coming from outside Minnesota, according to campaign finance reports filed in Ramsey County.
In an interview Tuesday, Nelson attributed the outside donations to her national connections as well as the spread of news about her campaign online. She is currently an aide to U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. But no matter where the money comes from, she said, the goal is to connect with Ward 4 residents.
“To me, it’s about being able to reach people here locally,” she said. “Every dollar that we get is so that we can organize in every corner of our ward.”
Many donors listed in Nelson’s report live in Minneapolis, including Mayor Jacob Frey. Donors in St. Paul include staff members in Mayor Melvin Carter’s office, former deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann and Jon Commers, who represents St. Paul on the Metropolitan Council. Nelson received the DFL endorsement in the officially nonpartisan race.
The report shows Nelson’s campaign has spent $18,943 and has $7,803 in cash on hand.
DFL candidate Shirley Erstad’s campaign has raised $22,551 but has spent $28,134, leaving a deficit in cash on hand, according to her campaign finance report. The largest contribution came from Erstad herself, in the form of a $10,000 campaign loan.
Erstad attributed the deficit to recent spending on lawn signs and other campaign materials, as well as her campaign manager’s salary.
“I … feel pretty confident that that’s going to be made up pretty quickly,” she said.
Erstad’s donors are mostly St. Paul residents, including Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough, DFL state Sen. Sandy Pappas, St. Paul City Council Member Jane Prince and former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer.
David Martinez, who joined the race early this month, has raised $1,346 — including $1,121 that he loaned the campaign — and has $404 in cash on hand, according to his report.
The Fourth Ward election will happen in tandem with the primary election on Aug. 14.