St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman won a second term in office Tuesday night, defeating challenger Eva Ng. City voters approved instant runoff voting for municipal elections.
Coleman, a Democrat, had 68.7 percent of votes, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Ng, the Republican Party-endorsed political newcomer, had 30.8 percent, according to unofficial returns reported to the Secretary of State's office.
"I think the voters have totally rejected anyone that would suggest we're in a 'downward spiral,'" Coleman told MPR News, referring to a comment made by his opponent.
Voters stuck by Coleman, even though he raised taxes every year he was in office. In a crippled economy, the hallmarks of his first term included things like after-school programs and a handful of new companies relocating to downtown, but not the home runs that perhaps even he was hoping for.
Coleman noted that he had to make some unpopular decisions during his first term as mayor, but he said his inclusive brand of leadership is what earned him a second term.
"Be honest with people. Make tough choices, but do it by listening to the people about what they want to see in their city, in their community," he said. "That's what this is about. That's what this re-election affirms. That's what we have done here tonight."
Coleman said the Central Corridor light rail project will be his top priority during his second term. "It's the greatest opportunity that the city of St. Paul has seen in probably a 100 years," he said.
Ng said she was proud of her campaign and for its fight against escalating property taxes in the city.
"Just because we don't win, doesn't mean we can't do something about it still," she said. "That's what I am: a regular citizen who stood up and said 'let's not put up with this.'"
"I'm disappointed we didn't get the results we were looking for," she said. "At the same time, I have a private life I'm happy to get that back."
A St. Paul ballot measure to switch to instant runoff voting was also approved. The voting system would be used for future mayoral and city council elections.
But anti-IRV forces say the fight isn't over. A group that opposes IRV has filed a complaint alleging that proponents included false information in its campaign literature.
Chuck Repke of the No Bad Ballots Campaign says the pro-IRV group never should have indicated that they were endorsed by President Obama or the DFL party.
"We feel this unfairly influences the election," he said. "You spend that much money on that much false advertising on an election that was this close, it clearly had an impact on the election."
Ramsey County elections officials say the earliest St. Paul voters will see IRV will be in 2011 for the city council election. Elections officials don't expect special machines that can count the new ballots will be developed by then, meaning the votes will have to be tallied by hand. That will likely mean additional costs, and longer waits for the final results, as voters in Minneapolis saw Tuesday night during the city's first IRV election.
St. Paul also held a school board election yesterday. Incumbents Elona Street-Stewart and John Brodrick were re-elected. But a third incumbent, Tom Goldstein, narrowly lost his seat to challenger Jean O'Connell, who works for 3M.
There was also a race to fill the seat left vacant when Tom Conlon resigned. At the time, he was the only elected Republican in St. Paul. Democrat Vallay Varro won the seat.
(MPR reporter Tom Scheck contributed to this report)