Dai Thao wins Ward 1 city council seat in St. Paul


Dai Thao was declared the winner in St. Paul’s Ward 1 city council race on November 11 — six days after the election. That’s when the Ranked Choice Voting count was finally conducted, running from early morning to late afternoon. Fred Melo (Pioneer Press) provided an entertaining Twitter feed, which may well have been the best place to follow the count. He announced that Dai Thao was the winner just before 4 p.m., with Thao garnering 1970 votes to runner-up Noel Nix’s 1722.

For all of you (other) political junkies out there, that means that every single first-place vote-getter also won the RCV count in this year’s Minneapolis and St. Paul elections. Dai Thao will be sworn in on November 21, earlier than winning candidates in other races because he is replacing Melvin Carter III, who left the council in July for a job with the Minnesota Department of Education. (Nathaniel Khaliq has been filling the position on an interim basis.)

A community organizer who worked for a while for Take Action Minnesota, Dai Thao is also an IT manager and a poet, which sounds like a very well-rounded personality. Thao garnered the most votes at the DFL endorsing convention, but no one got enough to actually win the endorsement. The eventual field of candidates numbered seven, including Noel Nix, Johnny Howard, Debbie Montgomery, Kazoua Kong-Thao and Mark Voerding, all DFLers, and a lone Republican, Paul Holmgren, who got 178 votes. There were also seven write-in ballots including, according to Fred Melo’s tweets, Jesus and Barney Rubble.

In a campaign interview with Hmong Pages, Thao listed his priorities:

 1. Jobs. I will use every available policy tool to ensure that jobs created by new development on the Green Line pay good wages, provide healthcare, employ union labor, and benefit Ward 1 residents and workers. Our ward faces an exciting opportunity, but also a shrinking window. The Green Line will create new development and draw new consumers to University Avenue. Businesses will follow. If the city can get out ahead of this development and set the rules before it really takes off, then we can change the community’s fortunes from the beginning.

2. Equitable Resources. I will ensure that Ward 1 receives equitable public safety and neighborhood development resources. For example, I will ensure the city keeps its promise to provide additional resources to the fire department so it can provide both emergency fire and emergency medical service to Ward 1 residents. Currently, the department can only provide one or the other at any given time. This is despite the fact that Ward 1 suffers more fire fatalities than any other ward in the city. If there’s a more blatant example of inequity than failing to provide sufficient resources to save lives during a fire, I don’t know what it is. The city promised firefighters they would fix this and I’ll make sure they keep that promise.

3. Housing. I will protect homeowners and renters from foreclosures, property tax hikes, and speculators, and require new housing developments to include affordable housing. I would take up Councilmember Carter’s call for an underwater home buyback/Sellback program, which would use privately matched, public funds to buy qualifying homeowners’ underwater mortgages, and then sell them back to the homeowner at current market rates. This would stabilize communities, protect families, and provide a firm foundation for recovery in Ward 1 and the city.


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