People who live outside St. Paul have channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars into the city’s mayoral race.
Campaign finance reports show about 70 percent of candidate Dai Thao’s campaign contributions came from outside St. Paul, while competitors Melvin Carter and Pat Harris have seen about half of their cash coming from people who do not live in the city.
Another campaign finance report, due Tuesday, will show the candidates’ latest push for support ahead of Election Day on Nov. 7. But a Star Tribune analysis of reports submitted through mid-September show which candidates are favored in different St. Paul neighborhoods and what communities outside St. Paul — and outside Minnesota — are financially fueling the race.
Voters in the wealthier, high-turnout neighborhoods of Highland Park and Macalester-Groveland gave heartily to their former City Council representative, Harris. Harris, who lives in Highland Park and grew up in Macalester-Groveland, has received the most donations of any candidate as of September. Nearly 30 percent of the more than $287,000 he has raised came from the neighborhoods he used to represent.
A small percentage of his donors — about 5 percent — reported living outside of Minnesota. But a significant portion of his funding is from metro suburbs, including Woodbury, Edina, Mendota Heights and Orono.
Harris said the vast majority of his fundraising efforts were in St. Paul, and he held two or three fundraising events outside the city. Most of the people who donated to his campaign know him through his involvement in numerous local and regional boards, commissions and volunteer organizations, he said.
Carter, also a former council member, trails Harris’ fundraising total by about $23,000. Within St. Paul, Carter’s support was less clustered than his opponents’, but residents around the ward he previously represented, which includes Summit-University and Frogtown, were particularly supportive. People in the Midway and St. Anthony Park neighborhoods in the northwest corner of the city also donated a lot.
Carter started campaigning nearly two years ago, and he said people across St. Paul were responsive to his message.
“We’re really proud that folks in every neighborhood and every ward have chipped in not only as donors, but as volunteers,” he said.
Carter got more money from Minneapolis residents than any other candidate, roughly $23,000. He also had strong support from people on the East Coast, particularly people living in Washington, D.C., and New York. He held a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., last year, and said he knows people there through college, high school and the progressive advocacy group Wellstone Action.
Thao, a council member who represents the same ward Carter used to represent, had secured more than $171,000 as of September. His largest base of support within the city was on the East Side, in neighborhoods including Payne-Phalen and Dayton’s Bluff.
But about 41 percent of Thao’s donations came from outside Minnesota — largely from Hmong donors in California and Wisconsin, where he fundraised earlier this year.
Carter and Harris are both fourth-generation St. Paul residents and have a lot of connections in the city. “I think that’s all great, but not everybody has those sorts of privileges and connections and contacts,” Thao said. He said he has family and friends in California and Wisconsin and they invited him to come hold a fundraiser.
“You are fighting for the regular people who haven’t been there four generations,” Thao said they told him. “You know our struggle. We haven’t been represented in city government and we support you.”
There are 10 candidates in the city’s mayoral race, though not all have been fundraising.
Candidates Elizabeth Dickinson and Tom Goldstein have a higher percentage of their cash coming from St. Paul, about 62 percent for Dickinson and 88 percent for Goldstein, but they have raised a fraction of what Carter, Harris and Thao have. And more than half of Goldstein’s campaign money is loans he gave to the campaign.
Dickinson’s biggest bases of financial support are around the Union Park and Summit-University neighborhoods, and the West Side, where she lives.