St. Paul picks Carter for mayor

Melvin Carter celebrates with supporters.
Melvin Carter celebrates with supporters at his election night party at the Red Cap Room at Union Depot in St. Paul.
Evan Frost | MPR News

St. Paul voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly chose Melvin Carter as the city's next mayor.

Carter, 38, a former St. Paul City Council member, won about 51 percent of the vote, dominating a crowded field in the race to replace Mayor Chris Coleman. Council member Pat Harris came in a distant second winning about 25 percent of the vote.

The fact that Carter won more than 50 percent of the vote decided the matter relatively quickly Tuesday night.

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul this year used ranked-choice voting, a system that allows voters to rank their candidates, giving contenders a chance to win even if voters didn't consider them a first choice.

While Carter's 51 percent quickly ended the drama in St. Paul, the Minneapolis mayoral race was shaping into a five-way battle between Jacob Frey, Nekima Levy-Pounds, Raymond Dehn, Tom Hoch and incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges. Late Tuesday night, Frey was in the lead for first-choice votes, snagging 24.97 percent of them. Hoch was next with 19.27 percent of first choices, followed by Hodges with 18.08 percent.

Jacob Frey thanks his supporters.
Jacob Frey thanks his supporters as he wins the most first-place votes for Minneapolis mayor. His party was at Jefe Urban Hacienda.
Ellen Schmidt | MPR News

Since none of the Minneapolis candidates won a majority of votes in the initial count, election officials must continue moving through the ballots, counting voters' second and third choices until one candidate snags a majority.

Here's a look at some of the election highlights from Tuesday night.

Minneapolis

Minneapolis voters came out in surprisingly strong numbers for municipal elections in an odd-numbered year. More than 43 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Some polling places reported running out of ballots into the early evening.

While the mayor's race remained undecided, history was made in a City Council race. DFLer Andrea Jenkins clinched the Ward 8 Minneapolis City Council seat. Jenkins is the first transgender person to win a council seat in a major city. She succeeds Elizabeth Glidden in representing several neighborhoods in south Minneapolis.

Voters cast votes at Sabathani Community Center.
Voters cast their ballots at Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis for the city elections.
Chris Juhn for MPR News

City election officials reported a high number of spoiled ballots, incidents where voters mistakenly filled in too many boxes. Those problems led to short-term shortages until new supplies came. As polls closed at 8 p.m., five precincts had no ballots. Election workers had to photocopy ballots so voters could cast ballots.

St. Paul

Carter, who'll become the city's first African-American mayor, emerged a strong winner in the race to succeed Coleman, who is running for Minnesota governor and chose not to seek re-election as mayor.

"We just started off by asking people of every walk of life in St. Paul what is your vision of this city," Carter told supporters Tuesday following his win. "And I'm really proud because what we have built what I'm excited to say is a big, bold bad vision for the city of St. Paul."

Carter was caught up in a controversy in late October involving the St. Paul police union and an August burglary at his home where two guns were stolen.

The union, which had endorsed Harris, criticized Carter for not better securing the weapons. St. Paul Police Federation President Dave Titus said the theft put two more untraceable guns on the street. The criticism was widely viewed as an effort to try and tie the theft of the guns to the rising number of shootings in the city.

Carter, along with Harris and Coleman, pushed back, attacking Titus' move as politically motivated and racially charged. Coleman and Harris called for the union's board to resign.

Titus later took "full responsibility" for an "ill-advised political attack."

Around the state

The Minneapolis race remained one of the only open questions across Minnesota Tuesday night. Final results came in on races from school boards to city councils. Around the state, there were some 30 city elections and 115 school district questions and board choices.

An election judge hands out an "I Voted" sticker.
An election judge hands out an "I Voted" sticker in St. Paul.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

Duluth voters appear to have overwhelmingly backed a one-half percentage point increase in the local sales tax to fund improvements to city streets.

With most precincts reporting Tuesday, the tax proposal had garnered more than 75 percent of the vote, although absentee ballots were not yet counted. The tax increase is expected to generate about $7 million per year.

School board and elections and tax money for schools were also on ballots across the state.

Statewide, districts were seeing early success with voters Tuesday night on funding proposals, said Greg Abbott with the Minnesota School Boards Association.

Voters in Anoka-Hennepin, the state's largest school district, backed an operating levy seeking $95 million over 10 years and a $249 million bond issue for facilities upgrades. With 27 out of 32 precincts reporting in the state's largest school district, both ballot questions had about two-thirds support.

The bond plan was the largest school district measure ever approved by voters in Minnesota.

"With these passing, we're going to build two new elementary schools and get rid of 62 portable classrooms across our system within the next 4 years," said Anoka-Hennepin School District superintendent David Law. He said funds would also go toward security upgrades and lowering class sizes.

Anoka-Hennepin plans to use half the operating money to lower class sizes. Law says some of the district's oldest buildings need upgrades to media centers and science spaces.

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