Wrestling through six ballots for the DFL Party’s backing in the St. Paul City Council First Ward race, incumbent Dai Thao and challenger Samakab Hussein fought to a draw Saturday as the 10-hour convention adjourned with no endorsement.
Thao, who joined the council after winning a special election in 2013, led on all ballots but the last one, when he slipped eight votes behind Hussein. Thao came closest to winning the endorsement on the fourth ballot when he garnered 53 percent of the votes, short of the 60 percent needed.
The failure of delegates to endorse likely means that the fall election will feature all three of the DFLers who competed Saturday: Thao, Hussein and Mohamed Said, who had dropped out of the running to back Hussein but said he would run if no one won the endorsement.
Another candidate, Trahern Crews, 40, a community organizer, is seeking Green Party backing.
After a chaotic caucus last month that drew larger than expected numbers, there were concerns that Saturday’s convention at Central High School would be overshadowed by a series of delegate challenges. But those issues were largely resolved at meetings last week, and 244 delegates were seated without rancor.
The convention itself was orderly, breaking three times for prayer to accommodate observant Muslims. The centrally located First Ward includes the Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods.
Thao, 39, an IT manager and community organizer, is the first citizen of Hmong descent to serve on the council. Hussein, 34, a self-employed accountant, and Said, 28, a respiratory therapist, are thought to be the first candidates of East African descent to run in St. Paul.
Thao won 48 percent on each of the first three ballots, with Hussein hovering at 34 percent and Said around 18 percent. But Hussein cut Thao’s lead to 7 points when Said dropped out, and topped Thao on the final ballot by 51 to 48 percent.
Each candidate had said that he would drop out of the race if someone else won the party endorsement.