14 days and choices to make in the St. Paul Mayor’s race. Is it Tom Goldstein? Is it Pat Harris? Or, is it somebody else?

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In roughly 14 days the filing window to file as a candidate for Mayor of St. Paul will close.

In 1993 there were more than a dozen candidates for Mayor to fill the shoes of Mayor Jim Schiebel who had announced he would not run for re-election.

In 2001 there were more than a half-dozen candidates for Mayor to fill the shoes of Mayor Norm Coleman who had announced he would not run for re-election.

To date there are only five candidates running for the office that won’t have an incumbent for the first time in 12 years.

Will that change?

We will find out in the next 14 days.

I am struggling in this year’s election for Mayor.

Of the five candidates, there are only two who I am finding myself considering supporting.

Who I do or don’t support for Mayor doesn’t matter to anybody but me. 

I know that. 

But, because it matters to me I find myself continuing to wonder why it’s is so difficult for me to bring myself to support one of those two candidates.

I have worked with Pat Harris in many different roles throughout the years.  He has been an active member of our community.  His efforts in supporting non-profits and charity isn’t just window dressing. 

It is deep, substantial and meaningful.

Through his philanthropic efforts, aided in equal parts by his wife, Laura, Pat has made a difference in Saint Paul and improved the lives of untold thousands of people.

Pat has been endorsed by several organizations who I have had the privilege of working with in my own career in St. Paul City government and politics – the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, the Saint Paul Police Federation and the Saint Paul Firefighters Local 21.

While Pat was on the City Council he was the least liberal of liberals on a City Council full of liberals.

Those political tendencies show in the positions he has taken on issues which, frequently, conflict with some of the same groups who have endorsed him.

In a City in which the current City Council is so far left of center that we should start digging in our heels to keep from sliding down the banks of the Mississippi River I have serious concerns about whether Pat, if elected, can keep us from ending up in the deepest part of the river.

Then there is Tom Goldstein. 

My history with Tom goes back to 1999 when then Mayor Norm Coleman wanted to bring the Minnesota Twins to St. Paul.

Tom was the leader of the effort to stop Norm from doing just that.

Despite spending a $1 million to convince St. Paul voters that a Twins stadium would be a great benefit to the City it was Tom Goldstein – not Mayor Norm Coleman – who won that battle.

Tom is running an uphill campaign for Mayor against candidates with more money.  More connections.  And, more support from the political establishment in labor, business and elsewhere.

Tom’s not afraid to tell people where he stands on issues.  Even if what he tells them doesn’t endear him to them or their political agenda and priorities.

One issue that matters a great deal to voters in Wards 2, 3 and 4 – the development of the Saint Paul Ford Plant – Tom has been the most vocal and outspoken proponent on behalf of the neighborhood.

While Pat Harris has publicly expressed mild concerns about density it has been Tom Goldstein who has been vocal and visible in saying the plan doesn’t have the support of the community and should be shelved in its current form.

Tom and I agree on a lot of issues, just as I do with Pat, but I disagree strenuously with his worldview on many other issues. 

So, 14 days out from the filing deadline I remain stuck in place when it comes to making a decision on the Mayor’s race.

Could there be other candidates that make it easier for me to decide?  Perhaps.

But, it is just as likely there will not be and I will have to decide before November about how I will cast my vote for Mayor.

The direction of St. Paul is at a crossroads.  There are those boosters who believe the City has never been more robust, vibrant and business friendly.

There are even those who are quick to criticize those who raise concerns about the condition of the city’s neighborhoods, including its downtown, and insist that only positive things should be said about Saint Paul and its political leadership.

I choose to believe that Saint Paul, under Mayor Chris Coleman, has seen its fair share of success over the past 12 years. 

I also choose to believe that he will leave Saint Paul largely a better place than when he became Mayor.

Yet, even in his success there are deep problems facing St. Paul’s future.

The lack of strong political leadership is high on the list of those problems.

Whether Tom Goldstein or Pat Harris can fill that leadership void remains to be seen.

So, too, is the question of whether other candidates will file before filings close in two weeks.

One way or another some choices need to be made in the next two weeks and then choices will need to be made before November about the direction of St. Paul.

We’ll see.

 

 

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