In a decisive and unexpectedly early victory, Melvin Carter soundly beat a field of 10 candidates Tuesday to become St. Paul's first mayor of color.

In Minneapolis, where mayoral candidates must wait for the ranked-choice votes to be parsed out, Jacob Frey was in the lead. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul races are being decided by ranked-choice voting.

Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl said Wednesday that the city staff will begin untangling the second-choice votes. "We will know the mayor results today," Carl said.

Carter, a former St. Paul City Council member, succeeded Mayor Chris Coleman, who chose not to seek re-election and is running for governor instead.

Carter, greeted by about 200 jubilant supporters at his postelection party at the Union Depot in St. Paul's Lowertown, said, "I'm thrilled. I'm elated. I'm humbled."

He said he started his campaign nearly two years ago by asking a simple question: "What is your vision for this city?" Listening to people across the city helped him develop a "big, bold" vision for St. Paul's future, he said.

Carter, 38, a former City Council member and executive director of Gov. Mark Dayton's Children's Cabinet, campaigned on promises of reducing educational and employment disparities and improving police-community relations. He has been a strong proponent of denser development and transit.

Carter came in well ahead of second-place finisher Pat Harris, who conceded late Tuesday and pledged to help the victor in any way he could. "We can all be comfortable that St. Paul is going to be fine," Harris told his supporters.

(See St. Paul election results here.)

In Minneapolis, with all precincts reporting, Frey led the mayoral election, with Hennepin Theatre Trust president Tom Hoch, incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges, state Rep. Raymond Dehn and law professor Nekima Levy-Pounds clustered behind him.

Through the night, Frey, a City Council member, steadily led a pack of 16 mayoral candidates.

Hailing the initial results of Tuesday's race, Frey, 36, noted that skeptics have told him he's "too young, too ambitious and not from here." He said he moved to Minneapolis because he loves the city, and added, "I think ambition for the city is a damn good thing."

With results showing her lagging in first-choice votes behind Frey and Hoch, Hodges arrived at Gandhi Mahal restaurant around 9:30 p.m. to applause from supporters and a serenade of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds," with its earworm lyric "Everything's gonna be all right," played on guitar.

In a two-minute speech, the mayor acknowledged that the vote count wasn't looking positive for her, and turned her attention to thanking her supporters, family and staff for their efforts in the campaign and her time in the mayor's office.

"We know the people of this city are extraordinary, and we have done some extraordinary things over the last four years," she said.

Hodges said she planned to keep watching as second- and third-choice votes were tallied, but signaled that she didn't expect the situation to shift in her favor.

"This has been an incredible conversation — and it's not done — but this has been an incredible conversation about the future of our city," she said.

Immediately following her speech, the mayor left the party. Staff members said she wasn't expected to return later in the evening.

(See Minneapolis election results here.)

The Minneapolis council

Several races on the Minneapolis City Council, where all 13 seats were up for grabs, wrapped up quickly with victories by several incumbents. They were Cam Gordon in the Second Ward, Lisa Goodman in the Seventh, Lisa Bender in the 10th, Andrew Johnson in the 12th and Linea Palmisano in the 13th.

In the Eighth Ward, history was made as newcomer Andrea Jenkins won more than 70 percent of the votes, securing the seat and making her the first transgender woman of color elected to public office in the nation. She succeeds Elizabeth Glidden, who did not run for reelection.

Not yet decided were these Minneapolis council wards:

In the First, incumbent Kevin Reich led, with Jillia Pessendra in second place. In the Third — Frey's current seat — Socialist Ginger Jentzen led. In the Fourth, veteran Council Member Barbara Johnson led, but Phillipe Cunningham was a close second. In the Fifth, Jeremiah Ellison, son of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., had a lead over incumbent Blong Yang. In the Sixth and Ninth wards, incumbents Abdi Warsame and Alondra Cano led. In the Eleventh, Jeremy Schroder had a lead over incumbent John Quincy.

Turnout high

The competitive races drew voters to the polls in Minneapolis and St. Paul, where turnout was higher than expected.

In Minneapolis, 20 precincts began running low on ballots late Tuesday, forcing election officials to order more and rush them out to election judges.

At one precinct on the city's northeastern side, 15 people were in line at the Audubon Park Recreation Center when election officials ran out of ballots about 7 p.m., an hour before polls closed. New ballots arrived within 10 minutes and voting resumed, although some voters left before they arrived, promising to return before polls closed.

"In 30-plus years, I've never run out of ballots before," said Carol Norgaard, the precinct's head election judge. She said she usually ends most election nights with 200 to 300 extra ballots.

Election officials estimate that 43 percent of the city's registered voters turned out, up from 33 percent four years ago, said City Clerk Casey Carl. Compare that to a local election in Los Angeles, where 8 percent of voters turned out to cast ballots, he said.

The voter turnout in Minneapolis "was comparable to a midterm congressional election," Carl said. "This reflects a healthy local democracy. "

Even before the polls opened, nearly 12,000 people had voted early, either in absentee ballots or at early voting centers — a dramatic increase from 2013, when 4,954 voted early, Carl said.

Voting also was heavier than expected in St. Paul. A record number of early voters cast absentee ballots — 6,213, according to Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky. And by the time voting ended Tuesday, 61,876 people had voted — 27 percent of the city's eligible voters. That's higher than normal, Mansky said.

Both cities use ranked-choice voting, where a winner is declared once a candidate has received a majority of votes (or gets more votes than the only other remaining candidate). Minneapolis voters ranked up to three choices and St. Paul voters ranked up to six choices for each office.

If no candidate wins a majority in the first round, election officials reallocate votes in a series of elimination rounds. Minneapolis will begin tabulating the second- and third-choice votes Wednesday, and St. Paul will begin that process Thursday.

Voters also cast ballots for the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Park and Recreation Board.

In addition to Minneapolis and St. Paul, other metro-area cities also had City Council races. They included St. Anthony and Bloomington, school board races in St. Paul and St. Louis Park and a number of school districts with referendums on the ballot.

In St. Paul Public Schools, at least one new member will join a board that's grappled with enrollment, safety issues and budget deficits. Incumbents John Brodrick and Jeannie Foster faced Andrea Touhey, Marny Xiong, Greg Copeland and Luke Bellville.

Brodrick, Foster and Xiong are DFL-endorsed. Brodrick is the veteran board member in the bunch. Foster is in her first year on the school board. Xiong is a school administrative manager at Hmong International Academy, part of the Minneapolis Public Schools district.

Anoka district says 'yes'

In all, metro-area school districts this fall asked for more than $1 billion for construction, technology and facilities improvements, and voters were in a generous mood.

The sprawling Anoka-Hennepin district, with more than 38,000 students, won approval of $249 million for expansion plans that include two new elementary schools.

"We've got a wonderfully supportive community," said district Superintendent David Law.

Other school districts, too, made $100 million-plus requests to meet future growth. Mounds View held off for 18 years before asking voters for $164 million, which appeared headed for approval. The Roseville district won a $144 million pitch for renovations and additions, the Prior Lake district got $109 million, part of which aims to build a new elementary school.

Staff writers Adam Belz, Hannah Covington, Erin Golden, Pam Louwagie, Andy Mannix, Nicole Norfleet, Shannon Prather, Beena Raghavendran, Eric Roper, Jessie Van Berkel and James Walsh contributed to this report.

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788