The four DFL candidates vying for mayor of St. Paul will likely continue to compete until Election Day.
After a full day of strategizing and months of being courted by candidates, delegates at the city’s DFL Convention reached an anticlimactic outcome Saturday: They did not endorse anyone for the mayor’s post.
Melvin Carter, a former City Council member and adviser for Gov. Mark Dayton, received the most support of any candidate, with nearly 55 percent of delegates backing him at the final count. Despite chants from his supporters urging people to “Endorse!” Carter remained shy of the 60 percent threshold needed to secure the party’s approval.
While the party’s backing is important in the DFL-dominated city, it was never a defining factor for Pat Harris, a former City Council member and vice president at BMO Harris Bank who said he would continue to run without it.
Harris spent most of the endorsement process closely tied with City Council Member Dai Thao, who came out in second place with 27 percent. Thao had said he would abide by the party’s decision. He changed his stance Saturday.
“I’m in it to win it,” he said, adding that he changed his mind after allegations emerged that he and his former campaign manager attempted to solicit a bribe. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the allegations, which Thao said are “dirty tricks” intended to keep him out of office.
Former school board member Tom Goldstein received the least support and said he would likely remain in the race but was taking a day to weigh that decision. Two non-DFL candidates are also running for mayor: Elizabeth Dickinson, a Green Party member, life coach and activist, and businessman Tim Holden, an independent candidate.
Friday’s acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony police officer who shot and killed St. Paul resident Philando Castile, hung heavy over the party proceedings at Washington Technology Magnet School’s great hall.
Mayor Chris Coleman led the room in a moment of silence for Castile. Coleman, who has been mayor for 12 years, is running for governor.
As the mayoral candidates made their pitches to approximately 500 delegates, they discussed the community impact of the Yanez jury’s decision.
The city’s police and inspections departments work against marginalized community members, Carter said, and systemic inequality is inherent in the DFL convention process, which gives wards with historically higher turnout more delegates.
Harris said he wants to make sure no one feels out of place. “My heart was heavy because our community was broken,” he said.
Goldstein said police “added insult to injury” by donning riot gear to deal with protesters on Interstate 94. He would have liked to see officers taking a different approach when asking people to stay off the interstate.
East Side resident Nicole Zambory said she protested, slept for four hours, then showed up as an alternate delegate. “I want things to be equal in St. Paul. We have a huge amount of diversity here,” but that was not reflected on the jury in the Yanez case, she said. She is a Thao supporter and said she thinks he will fight for equity.
The candidates presented their stances on raising the minimum wage, protecting immigrants and ensuring that city spending on the Ford site does not come at the expense of other neighborhoods. All four candidates support an increased minimum wage and said St. Paul officers should continue the policy of not asking people about their immigration status.
St. Paul school board candidates were also competing for the DFL nomination. There are three open seats on the board, and the party backed Marny Xiong and incumbents John Brodrick and Jeanelle Foster. They did not endorse newcomer Eduardo Barrera, who dropped out of the race.