Nearly two years out, St. Paul mayoral race opens quietly

Melvin Carter, III
Melvin Carter, III
Photo courtesy Lisa Miller

The 2017 St. Paul mayoral race is starting to take shape.

Former city council member Melvin Carter III, 37, has filed paperwork to form a campaign committee and start raising money for the non-partisan race to run Minnesota's second largest city.

Three-term DFL incumbent Mayor Chris Coleman hasn't yet announced his intentions regarding a fourth term, but Carter believes the seat may be open next year. "Should Chris decide not to run, which it looks like he might, it's something I'd like folks to know I'm interested in," Carter said in an interview.

Carter worked in the mayor's office when Coleman was first elected in 2006. The next year Carter successfully challenged Ward 1 Council Member Debbie Montgomery. Carter was re-elected to the council seat in 2011, but stepped down two years later — in mid term — to take a position with the Minnesota Department of Education. He has since joined the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton as head of the governor's Children's Cabinet.

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We're starting an exploratory phase.

Carter is a St. Paul native and has roots in public service and politics. His father, Melvin Carter II, was a long-time St. Paul police officer and community activist. His mother, Toni Carter, was a teacher and St. Paul school board member. She currently represents part of St. Paul on the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners.

Carter's filing with the Ramsey County Elections Office lists some notable political figures working on his behalf, including Jeff Blodgett and William Finney. Blodgett is the founder of Wellstone Action and is a well-known DFL strategist. Finney is a former police chief, former school board member and former city council member in St. Paul. Both Blodgett and Finney are listed as campaign chairs.

"We're starting an exploratory phase," Carter said. "Obviously I have been in love with St. Paul for a long time, and having some great conversations with folks about the future of our city. And I feel like we're at a great moment in the history of our city, and I look forward to just continuing to be a part of writing that story in a way that St. Paulites from all walks of life can participate."

Carter, who is African American, could make history if he's elected. He would be St. Paul's first black mayor.

Carter's campaign filing makes him the first and only contender to file so far for the city's 2017 election cycle. His initial filing on Christmas Eve showed he had raised more than $18,000 for his campaign, and he said this weekend that he finished the year with about $30,000 cash in hand.