St. Paul Mayoral Race, Final Days

The five viable candidates from before remain the five viable candidates:

Elizabeth Dickinson
Melvin Carter
Dai Thao
Tom Goldstein
Pat Harris

Last week there was some controversy over a mailing that did an excellent job of underscoring why I view the Police Union endorsement as a negative rather than a positive.

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St. Paul Mayoral Race, Part II

There are ten candidates on the ballot; here are the five that are doing enough fundraising and campaigning that they’re widely viewed as viable:

Elizabeth Dickinson
Melvin Carter
Dai Thao
Tom Goldstein
Pat Harris

The St. Paul ballot, unlike the Minneapolis ballot, doesn’t list party affiliations. Elizabeth Dickinson is a Green; the other four are all DFLers.

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Instant Runoff Voting in St. Paul for (effectively) the first time

I went to a Melvin Carter meet-and-greet this afternoon (more on that later, when I write about the St. Paul mayoral race). During some Q&A someone asked how to most effectively use IRV to vote for Melvin, like who should they put in second place?

The host of the event said, “you should vote Melvin first, second, and third!”

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Don’t do this! It won’t help! It won’t hurt your favorite candidate, but you’re giving up your opportunity at a second choice. It’s the same as leaving your 2nd and 3rd (and 4th, 5th, and 6th) choices blank.

“As long as you vote for me first,” Melvin said, “you can put whoever you want in that second slot. And if enough people rank me first, it won’t ever matter!”

“But what if we put Pat Harris in the second slot,” someone asked, “and you have 48% and Pat Harris has 47%…”

“If you visit the FairVote Minnesota site,” I said, “there are videos explaining this.” Because for real, the middle of a candidate meet-and-greet is not a great place to do IRV 101, and it is way easier to understand with visual aids.

Here’s a video.  Here’s another video, this one from MPR. (Here’s an explanation without video but apparently it’s on how races work when you’ve got 3 seats to fill instead of just 1. I don’t think St. Paul has any elections where we do that, because — like Minneapolis — we can’t use IRV for school board races, and unlike Minneapolis, we don’t elect our Park Board.)

This was a meet-and-greet in Mac-Groveland. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people in that room were college-educated; a bunch probably had advanced degrees. But even though ranked-choice voting was implemented in St. Paul during the last election cycle, it wasn’t a competitive race and hardly anyone was paying much attention.

And this is unfortunate, because I think the IRV supporters feel like it’s old news in St. Paul and the aggressive education they did a few years ago was probably sufficient. I’m here to tell you that you need to act as the city is using it for the first time, because there are an awful lot of voters who are using it for the first time.

If you’re voting in St. Paul, and thinking about candidates and how to rank them, a couple of important points.

  1. We get to rank six candidates. Minneapolis only ranks three. We get six slots. You do not have to use all six if you don’t want to.
  2. It does not hurt your first-choice candidate if you list your second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth choices. Those only come into play if your first-choice candidate gets dropped from the ballot.
  3. There are not actually six seriously viable candidates, so don’t sweat six choices. The next mayor of St. Paul is going to be Melvin Carter, Pat Harris, or Dai Thao. If you’re short of time, worry about how to rank those three and don’t worry about where Barnabas Y’shua or Sharon Anderson would fall on your ballot (my advice: not on it at all). Dickinson and Goldstein have at least some chance, and if you totally love Dickinson, by all means list her first, part of the point of IRV is that you can vote your heart! And I’ll be writing about all ten. But in point of fact, it’s going to be Carter, Harris, or Thao, so figure out how you rank those three and then do it. If you adore Melvin Carter but prefer Harris to Thao, then rank Harris second, it will not hurt Melvin Carter in any way.)

But also, if you have not used this system and are not sure how it works, go watch one of the videos! And share it with your friends! These videos were everywhere four years ago when Minneapolis was (effectively) doing this for the first time. And it is a system that is much easier to understand with a visual aid.

Election 2017: Free Advice Offered Here

St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman is not running for re-election (instead, he’s going to run for governor) so people are starting to announce that they’re running to replace him. I am paying  at least a little bit of attention because for one thing, although the election isn’t until next November, the St. Paul DFL caucuses are in April and the St. Paul City Convention is in June, and if I’m a delegate to the city convention I could help decide who (if anyone) gets the DFL endorsement.

I’ll note that the DFL has a lists of people who were delegates to conventions in the past, and during the race for State Rep four years ago, the people interested in the soon-to-be-open seat used this list to contact people who’d been delegates in the past to ask for their support. I got letters, phone calls, and personal visits. A legislative district is pretty small, and it’s harder to do that when you’re running for mayor, but still, much more achievable than individually contacting every individual resident of the city.

You can also buy a broader e-mail list and start e-mailing people, and if you do that, here is the free advice I promised up top: start by introducing yourself. Tell me who you are, what you stand for, what your experience is, and why you deserve my support.

This honestly seems pretty obvious.

And yet, the first contact I got from one candidate looked like this:

Naomi –

I hope this note finds you and your family well this holiday season!

As the year comes to a close, my campaign to be Saint Paul’s next mayor is really starting to heat up. Just a couple of weeks ago Mayor Coleman announced he is not running for reelection; he’s been a strong leader for our city and I look forward to building on his work.

I’m ready to lead our city, building on our growth and progress while making sure that every family in every Saint Paul community grows and prospers along with it.

And that means I need your help at our year-end deadline. We’re building a strong campaign, but we need the resources to keep growing and win. Please contribute today and help me become Saint Paul’s next mayor!

There is a lot at stake, and Saint Paul is at a turning point. Our next mayor will shape our city for decades to come. I am committed to making sure Saint Paul is a city that serves everyone.

Your help today is critical. At our year-end deadline we’ll report how much we’ve raised, and we need to show our campaign’s strength and viability. Will you help before 2016 ends by making a contribution today?

I’m looking forward to working with you in the coming year and beyond to make our city stronger, more prosperous, and more welcoming than ever.

Thank you,

P.S. – Let’s give folks something to talk about. Chip in now to help us top our goal and report the strongest number we can at our deadline!

“I look forward to building on (Chris Coleman’s) work; I’m ready to lead our city” is not a useful introduction. “I need your help at our year-end deadline” is what you say to someone you already know is a supporter, not a person for whom this is your first attempt at contact. At this stage, you should be telling me who you are and what your experience is, not hitting me up for money. You should be inviting me to your meet-and-greet, not your fundraiser.

Someone named Chris Kluthe (his campaign chair? I don’t know, as he doesn’t introduce himself either) followed up later the same day with:

Naomi – I wanted to be sure you saw Melvin’s email. With our deadline less than 72 hours away, it’s critical that we end the year strong. Please, click here now to chip in and help make Melvin our next mayor! 

Is Melvin Carter III awesome? He might be awesome, I have no idea. Having looked him up, he’s apparently a former Council Rep for Ward 1 and quit midway through his second term to work for the Department of Education. He started running a year ago (because he guessed that Chris Coleman wouldn’t run again). He would be St. Paul’s first black mayor.

I got fundraising e-mails from Melvin Carter or Chris Kluthe on December 29th (twice), December 30th, December 31st (twice), and January 2nd. On the 30th I e-mailed a reply to the “it’s critical that we hit our goal before this deadline” message with, “Who even are you? Nonstop nagging me for donations is not how you introduce yourself to possible supporters!” to see if anyone would reply to me in a more personal way. Nope!

It’s maybe a little early to say that he’s lost my vote, because … maybe he’s awesome? But I find it obnoxious to be hit me up for money, six times in ten days, via a mailing list I did not sign up for, from someone I’d never heard of before he started asking me for money. (Should I have heard of him? Maybe? But remember, I only moved to St. Paul in 2012, and he quit his council job in 2013, and at that point I was still trying to remember the name of the rep from my own ward, let alone anyone else’s.)

I probably ought to unsubscribe from his e-list, but at this point I’m honestly curious how many times his campaign is going to ask me for money before reaching out to tell me anything about him.

Also, hey, if you live in either Minneapolis or St. Paul, both mayoral races are shaping up to be pretty interesting. Chris Coleman is not running again, and Betsy Hodges has a bunch of serious candidates running against her. You can go to your local caucus and become a delegate to your City Convention and help decide who gets the DFL endorsement! (Or, as has happened at many such conventions, help block the person you don’t like from getting the DFL endorsement! It’s exciting either way.)