Sunday, December 8, 2019
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Poll is bad news for St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly

St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly got some bad news on Friday. A Pioneer Press poll shows him trailing challenger Chris Coleman by 33 percentage points. Kelly's endorsement of George W. Bush last year for president appears to be the biggest reason for Kelly's poor showing in the poll. But it's not all good news for Coleman, either. Because many voters say they don't know much about him.

St. Paul, Minn. — Two weeks before the election, things aren't looking good for Mayor Kelly.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press poll shows if the election were held today, 61 percent of likely voters would vote for Chris Coleman. Only 28 percent would choose Kelly. 11 percent are undecided. The margin of error is five percentage points.

The majority of the 400 respondents said Kelly's endorsement of President Bush makes them "less likely" to vote for the incumbent.

Kelly declined an MPR request for an interview. Instead he released a statement. In it, Kelly says the poll underscores what he said four weeks ago. Then, he held a press conference to highlight his credentials as a Democrat and his accomplishments as mayor. But, he conceded he would lose the election if St. Paul voters decide to focus on his endorsement of the president.

An unscientific sample of St. Paul voters in the city's downtown resonated with the poll and Kelly's statement.

Nicole Alberg says she won't vote for Kelly precisely because of the Bush endorsement. She says she's angry with the president and his administration.

"It's like every week they're getting exposed," she says. "Of course, the war I'm totally against. Of course, Katrina. I mean, there's so many things, there's not enough time to go through them."

St. Paulite Jerome Bette says he's a lifelong Democrat. But he's not supporting Kelly.

"He's the wolf in sheep's clothing," he says. "It's pretty clear that he doesn't want to step out of it. And this is obviously a Democratic city, so you're going to have most people looking at that."

But that doesn't mean he's wild about the other candidate, DFLer Chris Coleman.

"He doesn't give me any excitement," Bette says. "But you know, he's the only alternative at this point."

Not exactly a victory for the Coleman camp.

In fact, most of those interviewed downtown and in the Pioneer Press poll said they really don't know much about Coleman.

But Roxanne Bacigalupo says she knows enough about Coleman to not vote for him.

"I am not a big fan of any city council person that's on the council now," she says. "He's a former city council person. I just don't have faith in city council. I don't think they can do the job. Because they can't do anything on this city council."

Bacigalupo says she votes Republican. She says she voted for Bush and she will be voting for Kelly, whom she describes as a good mayor and a "great guy."

Twenty percent of the Pioneer Press sample identified as Republican. That percentage breaks down pretty close to St. Paul's electorate.

St. Olaf College political scientist Dan Hofrenning says Kelly needs those Republican votes to help him win. But according to the Pioneer Press poll, Kelly's not doing as well with Republicans as Coleman is doing with Democrats.

"Chris Coleman gets 82 percent of Democratic identifiers who are the vast majority of St. Paul voters," says Hofrenning. "And Mayor Kelly only gets 68 percent among Republicans who are a minority in St. Paul. I think those numbers aren't going to add up on election day."

Hofrenning says every poll is just a snapshot and politicians will tell you the only poll that matters is the one on election day.

Coleman spokesman Bob Hume says the campaign is pleased about their candidate's strong showing in the Pioneer Press poll. But he says he doesn't want the poll to keep voters at home on election day, taking a Coleman win for granted.

"The stance of our campaign is this election is no way over." he says. "We're going to work very hard every day to get it done on November 8th."

In his statement, Mayor Kelly says he's staying in the race. He writes, "Win on lose on election day, I will be proud of my efforts on behalf of this great city and its people."