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One St. Paul incumbent ousted; another awaits Round 2 of IRV

St. Paul voters ousted one incumbent, City Council Member, Lee Helgen, and sent another, Dave Thune, to Round Two of the Ranked Choice voting process.

The outcome of Thune’s race in Ward 2 will be decided Monday, when the second-choice votes are allocated. Thune was ahead after Round One by more than 500 votes, but he was below 50 percent, so challengers Jim Ivey and Bill Hosko, who were second and third, theoretically have a chance to overcome him in the upcoming round(s).

Lee Helgen
Lee Helgen

In Ward 5, challenger Amy Brendmoen beat Helgen by 33 votes; Helgen can ask for a recount, but he’d have to pay the cost himself.

And in the only seat with no incumbent, Chris Tolbert narrowly made the 50 percent mark to beat three other Ward 3 candidates.

Incumbents Dan Bostrom (Ward 6), Melvin Carter (1) and Russ Stark (4) won handily, as did Kathy Lantry (7), who ran unopposed.

I (and others) had predicted that three of the races might go to the runoffs, because there were multiple challengers who seemed like they’d keep the favorite from getting a majority of the vote, but that only happened in Thune’s case.

Another apparent winner in the election: the Ranked Choice system. Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Manksy was seen grinning from ear to ear while talking with election judges around town.

Jeanne Massey, head of FairVote Minnesota, a Ranked Choice Voting advocate organization, was out and about all day checking on polling places and found no problems.

“My overall assessment of voters at polls is really fantastic,” she said this morning. “They understood overwhelmingly how the process worked, and there were very few spoiled ballots.”

Some election judges told her that the number of spoiled ballots was no greater than normal, and usually involved not filling in the ovals completely, rather than a problem with Ranked Choice.

Her analysis in Ward 2, where Thune leads by 12 percentage points going into the runoff, is that his lead, while substantial, is not mathematically insurmountable.

“Jim Ivey got lot of second-place votes, so if he and Dave Thune are at the top in the final round, there seems to be the potential for him to surpass Thune’s big lead,” she said. “The calculation is a tough one to make; I’m sure the campaigns are doing all the wondering in the world.”

We’ll see Monday.

In another Ranked Voting victory of sorts, Massey notes that newly elected Brendmoen is a supporter of Ranked Choice, which could be important if there’s an attempt to throw out the process.

In the city’s school board election, not surprisingly in the DFL-dominated city, the four DFL-endorsed candidates won easily. They are: incumbents Anne Carroll and Keith Hardy and newcomers Mary Doran and Louise Seeba.

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