Here’s what’s known: five or six women of color will comprise the majority of the next St. Paul City Council, all of them self-described progressives.
Isaac Russell’s late-night concession to Saura Jost in Ward 3 has almost cemented a diverse slate of candidates that ran with the backing of the St. Paul Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, likely moving the seven-member council at least a step to the left.
Here’s what remains unknown: Winners have yet to be declared in Ward 1 and Ward 7, the council races that drew the most candidates. Anika Bowie and Cheniqua Johnson led those races, respectively, on election night. Ramsey County Elections officials will reallocate ballots on Friday until a candidate breaks 50% of the vote.
With 40% of the vote, Bowie had a healthy lead over James Lo, the next highest vote-getter in the eight-way Ward 1 race, who had 20% of the vote.
“I am seeing this through,” said Lo, on Wednesday morning. In Ward 7, however, Johnson’s 41-36% lead over Pa Der Vang amounted to an advantage of just 246 ballots out of more than 4,400 votes cast for the six candidates. Dino Guerin, who netted 629 votes, had urged his supporters to rank Vang second.
Here’s what also remains unknown: Who will serve as the next city council president? Likely contenders are Mitra Jalali, arguably the council’s most progressive voice on housing, who had fought for tenant protections and voted against efforts to exempt new construction from rent control for 20 years, and Rebecca Noecker, who voted last fall for the rent control exemptions as part of a wide-ranging swathe of changes to the voter-approved ordinance. A new council president will be chosen in January, succeeding City Council President Amy Brendmoen, who chose not to run for re-election after 12 years in office.
Noecker is currently the council’s vice president, vice chair of the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority and co-chair of the council’s audit committee.
“I’m definitely ready to step up and help lead the new council,” said Noecker on Wednesday morning. “I’m interested in a number of leadership positions, including president. I want to hear what my current and new colleagues are interested in. There’s lots of leadership opportunity to go around.”
Strong showing for progressives
Progressive causes and candidates had a strong showing Tuesday in St. Paul, Minneapolis and across the country.
St. Paul voters backed the mayor’s proposal to increase the city’s sales tax to fund reconstruction of 24 arterial streets and additional parks projects by a sizable margin — 60% to 40%. The DFL slate won the four seats on the St. Paul School Board, unseating incumbent Zuki Ellis, who ran for re-election without the party endorsement.
Faith in Minnesota, the organizing arm of the progressive interfaith coalition ISAIAH, sent out 100 volunteers to door-knock and campaign for Jost in Ward 3, as well as Hwa Jeong Kim in Ward 5 and Johnson in Ward 7. Other progressive groups also jumped in the races. The Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America backed both Kim and Ward 6 Council Member Nelsie Yang, both of whom won their races by sizable margins.
Saura Jost, candidate for the Ward 3 seat on the St. Paul City Council in the November 2023 election. (Courtesy of the candidate)
“Our campaign worked incredibly hard with a broad coalition of community members to achieve this win, including faith leaders, labor, educators, climate justice advocates, LGBTQIA2S+ groups, local elected leaders and many more,” said Jost, in a public statement issued shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday. “Our shared vision for St. Paul is inclusive, equitable and prioritizes sustainability. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and work with everyone in the ward to build that future.”
At 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Russell posted a statement to the platform known as X, previously known as Twitter: “I would like to congratulate Saura Jost on her victory. Saura is clearly someone who cares deeply about her community. While we don’t agree on several issues, it is important that our community moves forward together. Her success is Ward 3’s and St. Paul’s success.”
Council races by ward
Here’s how St. Paul City Council races shaped up:
Ward 1: Winner unknown in an eight-way race.
Ward 2: Rebecca Noecker, with 63% of the vote in a four-way race.
Ward 3: Saura Jost, with 48% of the vote in a four-way race. Isaac Russell, the second-highest vote-getter with 30% of the vote, conceded on election night.
Ward 4: Mitra Jalali, with 79% of the vote in a two-person race.
Ward 5: Hwa Jeong Kim, with 52% of the vote in a four-way race.
Ward 6: Nelsie Yang, with 61% off the vote in a two-person race.
Ward 7: Winner unknown in a six-way race.
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Election results: 2023 St. Paul-area races
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