Primary election Tuesday in St. Paul, none in Minneapolis


Voters in St. Paul will go to the polls Tuesday to narrow the list of mayoral and school board candidates, while Minneapolis residents can stay home due to the new “Ranked Choice Voting” process.

In Minneapolis, voters will go to the polls just once this fall – Election Day, Tuesday, November 3 – and that day they will be asked to vote not just for the candidate of their choice, but to rank their first choice, second choice and third choice.

The new method of voting is called “Ranked Choice Voting.” Minneapolis voters approved the new system in a 2006 referendum and this fall’s elections will be the first time Ranked Choice Voting will be used in the city.

Proponents say Ranked Choice Voting improves the elections process because the primary system gave too much influence to the low number of voters who typically voted in primary elections.

Under Ranked Choice Voting, if no candidate receives a majority, a process counting voters’ second and third choices will determine the winner. Learn more at

In St. Paul, Regional Labor Federation has endorsed three candidates in city-wide elections in St. Paul – Mayor Chris Coleman and two school board candidates – as well as two candidates for the Maplewood City Council. The primary election will give the RLF’s political organizers an early glimpse of where labor-endorsed candidates stand two months before the general election.

“We do have some competitive races, and the primary is an indication of how together a campaign is,” said Bree Halverson, political director of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation.

The labor-endorsed candidates in the 2009 primary include:

· St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman

The mayor’s re-election campaign is not likely to be among the competitive races on the primary or general election ballot. Coleman easily won the endorsement of both the DFL party and the RLF.

Public-sector unions have praised the mayor for his willingness to make labor a partner in decisions that affect St. Paul. Although the city has been hit hard by state cuts to Local Government Aid – nearly $12 million was lost in the last legislative session – Coleman has shown the courage to raise revenue when possible, and he has worked with employee groups to soften the blow of budget cuts.

Coleman’s proposed 2010 budget, unveiled Aug. 11, would raise the city’s levy to recoup about $6 million of the state’s LGA cuts. The balance would come from reductions in payroll, as well as reductions in backroom operations and salary cuts in departments, including 8.25-percent cut instituted in the mayor’s office in February.

Private-sector unions, meanwhile, appreciate the mayor’s commitment to economic development that creates quality, family-supporting jobs.

One example: On Aug. 27, the mayor announced that the city will pool its funds with funds from the state and the economic stimulus plan to finance more than $71 million in housing development projects across the city.
The projects, Coleman said, will create an estimated 250 to 300 construction jobs in St. Paul.

· St. Paul School Board: John Brodrick and Vallay Varro

Both of the RLF-endorsed candidates for school board in St. Paul have pledged to work with labor on the issues facing the district – namely selection of a new superintendent and balancing the district’s budget.

“Our new superintendent must work in collaboration with all segments of our community, including labor,” said John Brodrick, and incumbent seeking re-election to one of three full-term seats open this year. “I think that’s important.”

Vallay Varro, the labor-endorsed candidate in a special election for the school board seat vacated by Tom Conlon, who is resigning, has worked as an advisor to Mayor Coleman on education issues.

“Being endorsed by labor affirms for me our collective commitment to working together in the best interest of kids, in propelling the district forward and a willingness to work together to address the tough issues ahead of us,” Varro said.

“We need to quickly hire a superintendent who will make the changes necessary to get the district on a sound financial footing, respond to the educational challenges facing the district, and rebuild trust with the district’s staff and educators. Then the board needs to manage and direct the new superintendent to assure that the district is meeting the needs of St. Paul for now and for the future.”

· Maplewood City Council: James Llanas and Kathy Juenemann

Halverson said the primary in Maplewood is “very competitive,” adding that the labor-endorsed candidates there represent the city’s best chance to continue rehabbing the reputation it earned a few years ago for messy government.

“There’s an opportunity for our labor-endorsed candidates to come out ahead and be in a good position to win in the general election,” Halverson said.

Reported by Steve Share of the Minneapolis Labor Review and Michael Moore of the St. Paul Union Advocate.

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