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Benanav, Kelly head for November showdown
By William Wilcoxen, Minnesota Public Radio
September 12, 2001
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DFLers Jay Benanav and Randy Kelly have emerged from the St. Paul mayoral field to face one another on the November ballot. The winner will succeed Norm Coleman, who is not seeking a third term as mayor.
Jay Benanav spoke of Tuesday's terrorist assault on the United States during his victory speech in his mayoral race. Listen to his comments.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

AMONG THE 16 CANDIDATES on the primary ballot, City Council member Benanav finished with 30 percent of the votes cast, state Sen. Kelly gained 27 percent. The next closest contender was Bob Long with 17 percent of the votes, followed by Jerry Blakey with 12 percent.

But holding a victory party on a day that will live in infamy proved difficult. Benanav, who grew up in New York, devoted much of his victory speech to reflections on what had transpired in the East. "This election really pales in comparison to what happened today in New York and Washington D.C.," he said. "And I think we need to keep this all in perspective. Elections are important, no doubt about it. This is how our democracy works. But in the end what's really important is our community."

While Benanav urged supporters to take a few days to look for ways to help the communities that were attacked, Kelly said it's important not to let terrorism slow the wheels of democracy.

He planned to be back on the campaign trail first thing in the morning. Kelly says the complexion of the mayor's race changes now that the crowded field is narrowed to two finalists. "Now we can focus in on the differences between me and my opponent, Mr. Benanav. I think that the people will readily see that there's a difference between he and I in the direction that we would take this city," Kelly said.

Sen. Randy Kelly accepts congratulations from family and friends during his victory party Tuesday night. Listen to his comments.
(MPR Photo/William Wilcoxen)
Over the next 60 days, Kelly will tell St. Paulites he would continue the priorities of Norm Coleman, pointing the city toward more economic progress. He will also cast Benanav as the council member who quarreled with Coleman and whose more liberal priorities would revive the lackluster days preceding Coleman's 1993 election.

Kelly is heartened by his primary returns and those of Blakey, the Republican-endorsed candidate. "It bodes very well for the November 6th election. We have a very simple message, a message of continuing the progress that we've been building over the last several years. And I think it's a message that has resonated with people today and I think as we spread that message to an even broader audience, I think it will resonate well on November 6th," he said.

Benanav says the election should be about the future rather than the past. He hopes the two-way campaign will focus on the needs of the city. "I hope it's going to be a race on the issues," Benanav said. "I'm going to talk about what I've been talking about from the beginning and those are basically the neighborhoods. The kinds of things we're going to do in the neighborhoods, what we're going to do downtown to connect neighborhoods and downtown. And to create vibrant, livable neighborhoods in a city in St. Paul."

Former City Council member Bobbi Megard and longtime city employee Bob Kessler finished with five and six percent of the votes, respectively. All other candidates gained less than one percent.