Council member who made history will now run for mayor in St. Paul

Dai Thao became the first Hmong-American council member in St. Paul history.
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Dai Thao made history in 2013 when he became the first Hmong-American council member in St. Paul.

And now he's got his eyes on the next office up.

Thao announced Monday he will run for mayor of St. Paul in the 2017 elections. He'll be one of the (probably many) people looking to succeed Chris Coleman, who has already said he will run for governor in 2018 rather than seek re-election.

"We need bold leadership that will tackle on the largest racial disparities gap that is crippling our economy, ensure that people are invested in because they are the infrastructure of our community and economy, and make sure that our city services operate equitably across the City," Thao said in his announcement, calling himself a "proud and determined progressive."

Thao was elected the Ward 1 council member in 2013 – which is not a regular election year. He won in a special election, after the previous council member stepped down in the middle of his term. Thao then won re-election in 2015.

Ward 1 is in the middle of St. Paul, and includes some of the city's most diverse areas, both racially and economically. The entire Frogtown/Thomas-Dale neighborhood is within that ward. More than one-third of the neighborhood is Asian, while 30 percent is black and 20 percent is white, MN Compass data shows.

More than half of the households there earn less than $35,000 a year.

If he won in 2017, Thao would be the first non-white mayor in St. Paul's history.

His vision for St. Paul includes more libraries and parks, safer neighborhoods, better education, fairer taxes, an expansion of the racial equity work Coleman started, a committee made up of business leaders, and more.

"I have worked hard to unite the people of St. Paul across race and cultures, neighborhoods and incomes, generations and political labels. The people of our city have shown me that they want to fight together for common dreams, rather than fight each other over our fears," he said.

Who else is running?

There are a few other candidates who have said they'll run for mayor.

The Pioneer Press says Pat Harris and Melvin Carter III – also former council members – have announced they'll run. Carter III is actually who left the Ward 1 council member seat in 2013, opening the door for Thao in a special election months later.

Former school board member Tom Goldstein has also said he'll run.

St. Paul will use ranked choice voting once again for its city elections.

Elections in 2017 will be held Nov. 7.

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