The Green Party of St. Paul began a new effort to recruit candidates for upcoming 2011 local elections June 16, as candidates and around 40 supporters gathered to launch the effort dubbed Green St. Paul.The campaign is an attempt to change the party’s sporadic track record in local elections by recruiting candidates to run for local office, said Green St. Paul co-chair Roger Meyer.
“We don’t have a history of running candidates in local elections,” said Meyer at the press conference outside the Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation office. “I don’t even know the last time we had a City Council candidate.”
The Green Party has officially endorsed three candidates in local races. Johnny Howard and Jim Ivey are running for St. Paul City Council seats in Wards 1 and 2, respectively, while Devin Miller is running for the St. Paul School Board. None of the candidates have held political office before.
Howard has lived in Frogtown for 28 years where he gained a reputation as a community activist. He helped to found the Thomas-Dale Block Club in the early 1980s, and led the community organization as executive director to protest the prevalence of prostitution and drugs in the neighborhood. He has since worked with a number of other community groups, including almost 20 years heading up the Frogtown Youth Football Program. Howard ran for the City Council seat in Ward 1 in 1999. This time, he will be running against incumbent Melvin Carter III (and possibly others.)
Ivey moved to St. Paul’s Lowertown ten years ago, and started a software company, Grand Avenue Software, which he still owns. He only entered local politics last year, when he became involved with District Council 17, working on the small business committee. This election cycle is his first experience running for office. He will be running against incumbent Dave Thune (and possibly others) in Ward 2.
Miller, an associate minister, has lived in St. Paul’s east side for 21 years while working at churches in Minneapolis. He founded and ran the Life Skills Development Center, an educational non-profit that worked with problem students, for 12 years. It closed in 2002 due to budget issues. He previously ran for mayor in St. Paul in 2000 as a Republican. This year four of seven school board seats are up for election.
The officially endorsed candidates were joined for their speeches by Bee Kevin Xiong, a St. Paul resident who announced his intention to seek the party’s endorsement to run for the City Council in Ward 6 at the rally. Ward 6 is now represented by Dan Bostrom.
Xiong, a real estate agent, has lived on the east side of St. Paul for ten years. He is also the spokesperson for Hmong non-profit Xiong United National.
At the event, candidates spoke of bringing the Green Party’s platform to the local level.
“We need to take it ward-wide, we need to take it city-wide, because St. Paul deserves better,” Howard said to supporters.
Meyer hopes that the recruitment drive will help the Green Party build its candidate list further.
“We would love to add two or three more city council candidates so that we have four or five of the possible seven and we think there’s a great opportunity this year to shake things up, get a few victories,” he said.
Meyer said the recruitment campaign was inspired by St. Paul’s adoption of ranked choice voting. The elections this November will see the first implementation of the ranked choice voting system that St. Paul voters approved in a referendum in 2009.
The system allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the first choice votes, they win outright. Otherwise, the candidate with the lowest number of first choice votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to the voter’s second choice. The process is repeated until one candidate crosses the threshold needed to win.
Andy Dawkins, co-chair of Green St. Paul, said the new system could make third parties much more competitive in local elections by eliminating the problem of spoiler candidates.
“It’s no longer the case that when you’re voting for your favorite candidate, you’re throwing the election to your least favorite candidate,” Dawkins said.
“This will be the first time that voters can vote their conscience,” Meyer added. “The DFL has really had a strong position without a lot of other voices for a long, long time, and now we feel that’s not necessarily the case.”
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