In the city's first test of ranked choice voting, St. Paul City Council member Dave Thune has won re-election to his Second Ward seat.
Thune failed to get more than 50 percent of first choice votes in last week's election, and none of the five candidates in Ward 2 received a majority of the vote. Under the rules of ranked choice voting, second-choice ballots were tallied on Monday.
Last Tuesday's election was St. Paul's first try at ranked voting.
Election judges spent all day sorting through ballots. In the third round of counting, Thune won by more than 800 votes — a personal record, he said.
Thune routinely runs tight races and knows he's controversial.
"If you take stands on pretty tough, contentious issues, you're going to wind up with a pretty good backlog of people that are not happy with you," he said.
First elected in 1990, Thune has championed the city's smoking ban and a city ordinance protecting the rights of gays and lesbians. His ward includes downtown and a diverse collection of adjacent neighborhoods.
Challenger Jim Ivey said even though he finished third, he's still a fan of the new voting system because it allowed him to build his campaign over time.
"Ranked choice voting allowed me, as a brand new candidate with no name recognition, to spend the past nine months meeting people," Ivey said. "If we hadn't have ranked choice voting, and there had just been a primary, we would have been done in August. With those extra months, when people are really starting to get engaged, that's really the most important part," Ivey said.
Some critics said the lack of a primary election crowded the field and prevented voters from focusing on the more viable candidates.
St. Paul is expected to use ranked choice voting in the 2013 mayoral race.
Thune said this term will be his last. Ivey said he plans to run again in four years.