February 8, 2005
St. Paul, Minn. — Mayor Randy Kelly made his re-election announcement at the Tivoli Too company in the Highland Park neighborhood. That's the business that creates some of St. Paul's signature landmarks -- the Peanuts statues that are perched throughout the city.
Kelly's announcement was expected.
"I'm running for re-election because I believe I have energy, the passion and the vision to continue to move this great city forward," Kelly said.
Over the course of 30 minutes, Kelly touted the accomplishments of his first term in office. He talked about housing, public safety, transportation and the city's economy -- the same issues he says he'd make his priorities in a second term. Even though he's an incumbent, Kelly told his supporters that there's a lot of work ahead.
"I realize, and I hope you do, that the weeks and months ahead are going very challenging. This will not be an easy election. It will be tough, it will be close, but in the end we will win," Kelly said.
Incumbency is on Kelly's side, but he's not alone in this race. The election has been gearing up since Thanksgiving, when Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega announced that he was running for mayor. As a county official, Ortega represents some St. Paul neighborhoods, including four precincts on the city's east side, which is home to a fast-growing Latino community.
Ortega is Puerto Rican and he's been introducing himself to parts of the city he doesn't already represent -- but would like to as mayor. He says his leadership style would be different than Kelly's.
"I'm going to stand up for St. Paul when it comes to the cuts we got from the state, and the impact that the failed policies that have been replicated at the city -- in terms of not investing in our neighborhoods and public safety -- and not moving the city forward, being stuck. That's what's going to distinguish myself from the mayor," Ortega said.
The mayor's race is a three-man contest. Last month, former St. Paul City Council member Chris Coleman announced his plans to try to unseat Kelly. A former Kelly ally, Coleman says the mayor has disappointed him.
"He had promised when he ran that he was going to be a builder of bridges to our community. I think he has really gone out of his way to create friction and roadblocks among neighborhood groups, between himself and the city council, between various parts of our business community and our homeowners and residents in the city of St. Paul. He also said he would always put St. Paul first, and I don't see that he's done that," Coleman said.
All three candidates are Democrats. Kelly, however, endorsed President Bush last year, alienating many DFLers in the process. But, if money is any indication, that move didn't hurt the mayor. Finance reports released last month show he has about $250,000 in his war chest. Coleman has raised about $12,000 and Ortega has raised about $10,000.
Ortega and Coleman have both announced they're seeking the DFL endorsement in their bid to become the city's chief executive. Kelly has not said if he'll seek that endorsement, and given his support of President Bush, it's unlikely he'd get it.
Kelly didn't get the DFL endorsement in 2001, when he ran for his first term. But he was still one of the two top vote-getters in the September primary and got on the November ballot. He beat Council Member Jay Benanav by about 400 votes.