Thune wins his 7th term in ranked-voting election

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 14, 2011 - 9:39 PM

Longtime St. Paul council member says this will be his last term.

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Election judges at the Ramsey County elections office began the process of reallocating ballots on Monday morning to determine who won the Second Ward City Council race.

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Longtime St. Paul City Council Member Dave Thune won a seventh -- and he says final -- term Monday in an anticlimactic finale to the city's first ranked-voting election.

As a longtime DFL incumbent in a deep blue ward, Thune's re-election was hardly a surprise. The debut of ranked voting, however, introduced uncertainty.

Thune, 61, led after the Nov. 8 election, but failed to reach the 50 percent plus 1 threshold needed to win. Green Party candidate Jim Ivey, 43, a Lowertown business owner, was in second place and art gallery owner Bill Hosko, 49, was third.

Under ranked voting, Sharon Anderson, Cynthia P. Schanno and the write-in names were dropped and their second-place votes, if any, were redirected to one of the three remaining candidates.

Hosko came out ahead of Ivey by about 50 votes in that round so Ivey was dropped and his second-place votes were redirected to Thune and Hosko if they were selected. During that round, Thune surpassed the 50 percent threshold, winning with 2,870 votes to Hosko's 2,064.

Even with the predictable outcome, Ivey and advocates of the ranked-voting system called the election a success.

Because there is no primary in ranked voting, Ivey said, he was able to campaign through the fall when voters pay more attention. Under the old system, he said he would likely have lost a primary, but the new system gave him a bigger platform, potentially setting up his next run.

Ivey was the only candidate to attend the recount Monday at elections headquarters, although Thune sent supporters. The recount ran without rancor all day.

Joe Mansky, Ramsey County elections director, said the election ran smoothly and voters appeared to have adapted well.

Jeanne Massey, executive director of Fair Vote, the ranked-voting advocacy group, declared success, saying ranked voting's aim is to "ensure that all the candidates were on the ballot in November when turnout is highest and most diverse."

Primary turnout hovers around 5 percent, while it was roughly 15 percent in this most recent city election when all seven council seats were on the ballot. Council Member Lee Helgen was the only incumbent to lose, to newcomer Amy Brendmoen. Prosecutor Chris Tolbert won the seat held by departing Council Member Pat Harris.

The six other races were decided on election night. Barring a voter-driven repeal, ranked voting will be used in the city's mayoral race in two years. Minneapolis used the system for the first time in 2009.

After he won, Thune confirmed the term would be his last. In his final years, he said he's going to try to shepherd the Schmidt Brewery redevelopment, build three dog parks, develop the West Side Flats housing and Pedro Park in downtown.

As Thune supporter and former Council Member Jay Benanav left the recount headquarters, he shook Ivey's hand and told him he would have been a "great" council member. Ivey responded: "Will be."

Hosko said he doesn't know what he will do in four years, but hopes to meet with Thune soon to address his concerns about downtown. "Maybe he'll let me help him go out on a really high note," Hosko said.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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