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Snapshot: Who's running for mayor in St. Paul and why

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Candidates for St. Paul mayor Thao, Harris, Carter, Goldstein and Dickinson
Candidates for St. Paul mayor are, left to right, Dai Thao (DFL), Pat Harris (DFL), Melvin Carter (DFL), Tom Goldstein (DFL), and Elizabeth Dickinson (Green Party).
Evan Frost | MPR News

Ten candidates are on the ballot this year for St. Paul mayor. 

Incumbent Mayor Chris Coleman is not seeking re-election, opting instead to run for governor. Several candidates sought the DFL endorsement, but the party failed to pick a candidate at its city convention.

Here's a look at five of the candidates in the running. 

Melvin Carter, DFL

St. Paul Mayoral Candidate Melvin Carter
Evan Frost | MPR News

Age: 38

Bio: Fourth generation St. Paulite; middle child, with two sisters; his grandparents lost much of their real estate to the Interstate 94 construction through the Rondo neighborhood. He's married with two children.

Education: Florida A&M University, master's degree from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School.

Work experience: Staffer for Mayor Chris Coleman; worked on Gov. Mark Dayton's staff as director of the Children's Cabinet.

Political and public experience: Started his public service at Wellstone Action on the Kerry-Edwards campaign and as a Got Voice/Got Power staffer; worked on making Green Line development accommodate University Avenue neighborhoods; elected Ward 1 City Council member in 2007, later resigned to join the Dayton administration; helped found Promise Neighborhoods in St. Paul and has worked on early childhood education initiatives for the state. 

Main issues: "We talk about how there are two St. Pauls. There is the St. Paul that we're building up really tall, and we see skyscrapers and cranes over our city and tons of opportunity. And there's the St. Paul that feels lost in its shadows ... I'm somebody that's grown up in both sides of that conversation well enough to know there's only one St. Paul and we have to work together."

Why he is running: "We have more people living here than we have in a generation, more places to catch a game, experience the arts, or just grab a great meal or local beer. I think we have work to do to make sure this is a city that works for everyone, where everyone in every corner of our city knows that they have access to the highest quality of public services possible, and building an economy that works for everyone."

What you might not know about him: He was a state high school track champion in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter events and came in second in the long jump. He went to Florida A&M on a track scholarship.

Elizabeth Dickinson, Green Party

St. Paul Mayoral Candidate Elizabeth Dickinson
Evan Frost | MPR News

Age: 57

Bio: Born in Lowell, Mass., her parents met while her father was stationed in England during the Korean War. She's an only child who moved to St. Paul from California in 1999.

Education: University of Delaware, University of Cambridge in England. Master's in counseling from Lesley University. Life coaching certification from the Adler Graduate School.

Work experience: Public high school teacher; stage and television actor. 

Political and public experience: Ran for the Ward 2 City Council seat in 2003 and for mayor in 2005; lobbyist for Minnesota Aids Project; campaign staff on Becky Lourey's gubernatorial campaign; national PTA organizer; environmental lobbyist; campaign staffer for Association for Nonsmokers. 

Main issues: Dickinson is a longtime advocate for clean energy and thinks municipal policies are the only viable route for change. She pushed to close the High Bridge coal burning plant and is proposing to put solar panels on the city's schools. She wants to improve police training with better input from residents.

Why she is running: "I really think there is a qualitative difference I could bring to the mayor's office, and a lot of it is through people skills and engagement. ... I believe, as mayor, I will spend a lot of time with people ... and if you do that, in a non-judgmental way, that there's something profoundly different and healing about that, and it restores just a little bit of that trust in government."

What you might not know about her: Dickinson played a "pregnant, suicidal nun" in the first season of the "Spenser: For Hire" television detective show in 1985.

Tom Goldstein, DFL

St. Paul Mayoral Candidate Tom Goldstein
Evan Frost | MPR News

Age: 60

Bio: Youngest of three boys; originally from Maryland, he came to Minnesota to attend Carleton College. He is divorced with an adult son.

Education: Carleton College, William Mitchell Law School.

Work experience: Entrepreneur. Ran the "Elysian Fields" baseball quarterly and the Sports Connection memorabilia store.

Political and public experience: Worked for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the Minnesota Housing Partnership as an organizer; elected in 2005 to the St. Paul school board for a single term; worked for the Minnesota Justice Foundation helping connect law school students with pro bono work; aide to DFL Sen. John Marty; worked at SEIU Healthcare as a union organizer through 2011; ran briefly for mayor in 2013 and for City Council in 2015. 

Main issues: Focusing on solar energy and broadband technology and jobs, and educating people in viable skills training. As founder of Connect St. Paul, a community broadband advocacy group, he wants to install fiber optics in existing conduit along the Green Line and create a tech corridor on University Avenue to pitch to the medical tech or software industries. 

Why he is running: "I tell people that I think we need to have a different set of priorities in the city. Our focus needs to shift from what seems to be a lot of building projects and funding fire and police, to actually reprioritizing so we actually focus on job creation, we focus on addressing poverty and we focus on education."

What you may not know about him: He founded the Gus Macker 3 on 3 basketball tournament in St. Paul.

Pat Harris, DFL

St. Paul Mayoral Candidate Pat Harris
Evan Frost | MPR News

Age: 51

Bio: Fourth-generation St. Paulite; youngest of three boys and a married father of four.

Education: Cretin High School valedictorian, Marquette University and MBA from University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. 

Work experience: Catholic Charities Vista volunteer; job services case manager; Ramsey County board legislative aide; RBC Global Asset Management manager; BMO Harris Bank senior vice president. 

Political and public experience: Former Ramsey County board aide; congressional campaign staffer for New York Rep. Nita Lowey; Minnesota House candidate; Catholic Charities board member; Metropolitan Airports Commission member; St. Paul Friends of the Library board chair; three-term Ward 3 City Council member; founder of Serving Our Troops military family service organization; Minnesota Children's Museum Board. St. Paul Public Schools Foundation board.

Main issues: Harris says his top priorities are "fully staffed" police and fire departments. He's also proposing moving the city's long-term investment portfolio into community banks to bolster small-business lending. Harris wants to see a busway or a modern streetcar on West Seventh Street, not light rail.

Why he is running: "I look back on my life and how you can make a difference and I see this extraordinary opportunity to make a difference in St. Paul. I think I have an extremely unique skill set of public finance, of government, of nonprofit and of just being a person in the community that's ready to lead this city that I love."

What you may not know about him: At Cretin, Harris played on the tennis team, but was also part of the Catholic school's "clown ministry" that taught students to be a clown and went to entertain people at schools and senior centers.

Dai Thao, DFL

St. Paul Mayoral Candidate Dai Thao.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Age: 42

Bio: Born in Laos, the middle child in a family of 10 children that fled to Thailand when he was 5. He lived in a refugee camp before coming to the U.S. in 1983. He's married with five children and has lived in St. Paul since 2010.

Education: Montana State University, Metropolitan State University.

Work experience: IT manager for Minneapolis Crisis Nursery.

Political and public experience: Worked on the 2008 Obama campaign with Take Action Minnesota; organizer with ISAIAH; first Hmong member of the St. Paul City Council.

Main issues: Priorities include building the city's employment opportunities, expanding the city's tax base and promoting equity and small business. "I was a kid growing up poor in public housing, fighting off the roaches and the mice so that I could have a meal, too, and we still have too many families that struggle like that. We just can't have that anymore." 

Why he is running: Thao would be the city's first Hmong mayor and says fighting poverty is a top priority. 

"When I was 5 years old, I saw what a bad government can do to its people. I saw my sister die right in front of me. And if I have the opportunity to come to this country, I'm not going to squander that opportunity. ... My whole life experience of coming to this country, embracing this country, I never want anybody in the city of St. Paul to experience the hurt, the pain of a bad government. ... I'm going to serve everybody."

What you may not know about him: Thao once played strong safety on the Minneapolis Patrick Henry High School football team.

All the candidates running for St. Paul mayor

• Sharon Anderson, GOP
• Melvin Carter, DFL Party
• Trahern Crews, Independent
• Elizabeth Dickinson, Green Party
• Tom Goldstein, DFL Party
• Chris Holbrook
• Tim Holden, Independent
• Pat Harris, DFL Party
• Dai Thao, DFL Party
• Barnabas Joshua Yshua

Editor's note: MPR News chose to profile Carter, Dickinson, Goldstein, Harris and Thao because their campaign finance reports show they've raised at least $10,000 in outside contributions for the 2017 reporting period. MPR News partnered with KARE to profile the remaining candidates; Yshua did not respond.