Yes, there's an election: Your guide to the 2017 St. Paul mayoral race

For the first time in 16 years, there's no incumbent in the race.
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St. Paul is about to get a new mayor.

But the city is not exactly buzzing about it.

Mayor Chris Coleman is not running for re-election (he's hoping to be governor instead). Even with 10 candidates vying to succeed him, a Pioneer Press editorial described the campaign as "quiet" and someone from the group FairVote Minnesota called it "a sleepy race."

There's an ongoing debate about whether the move to ranked-choice voting (how the process works here) has reduced interest in the election. That system means instead of voters narrowing the field down to two candidates in a primary, there are still 10 people on the November ballot. 

Unless you're a politics geek, you've never heard of most of these candidates. But we're here to help by giving you an overview of the biggest names and where they stand on one of the main issues: police-community relations.

We're focusing on five

Yes, there are 10 candidates but you can be pretty sure the winner will come from a group of five: Pat Harris, Melvin Carter III, Dai Thao, Elizabeth Dickinson, and Tom Goldstein.

Those five are the only ones who have reported collecting at least $20,000 in contributions. 

So we've summarized what each of these candidates is saying about how they'd approach police-community relations issue as mayor, as well as another of their campaign priorities.

Pat Harris

Experience: He served on the St. Paul city council for 12 years through 2011. Harris, 51, is a senior vice president at BMO Harris Bank. 

Public safety: Harris has come out with A Blueprint for Neighborhood Safety and an End to Gun Violence.

He's the only candidate pushing for hiring more cops (another 50) though his plan doesn't specify how he would pay for it. His competitors have mostly emphasized crime prevention instead of additional police (this mayoral forum provides an example).

But Harris' plan also calls for money to pay for more officer education on things like handling mental health crises, diversity and bias training, and conflict resolution.

Another priority: Harris says his career in the investment industry gives him financial savvy that could help St. Paul. Specifically, he's proposed a plan to shift the city's portfolio to neighborhood banks on the condition that those banks make $200 million in loans available for small business development in targeted areas. 

Melvin Carter III

Experience: Carter was elected to the St. Paul city council in 2007. He resigned in the middle of his second term to take a job with Gov. Mark Dayton's administration, specializing in early childhood education. 

Public safety: Carter, 38, is the son of a retired St. Paul cop, who calls his plan a Community First Police Reform Initiative.

It calls for a more diverse police force. It would clarify policies about use of force by officers and would include training in de-escalation techniques and crisis management. 

Carter also wants an emphasis on character-based hiring in the police department and more partnerships with mental health professionals. 

His campaign characterized recent criticism from St. Paul's police union (which has endorsed Harris) as evidence of racial bias in the department. (Read about the fallout here.)

Another priority: Carter says he wants St. Paul to do more for the city's children. That includes health services, affordable housing, partnerships with colleges, and affordable pre-school available to every child that wants it.

Dai Thao

Experience: Thao won the 2013 special election to fill Carter's seat on the city council and was elected to a full term in 2015. He has also worked in information technology and as a community organizer. 

Public safety: Like the other candidates, Thao supports more training for officers. But unlike the others he also wants to increase their pay, saying it would help the city retain good cops. 

Thao says as mayor he would also work with the city attorney's office to expand the use of restorative justice.

Another priority: Thao, 41, moved to the U.S. from Laos when he was 8 years old and says he grew up knowing both poverty and discrimination. 

He says keeping St. Paul's police out of immigration enforcement is a priority. Thao also wants to expand the racial equity work of Mayor Coleman and promises to oppose any policies that would infringe on the right to peaceful protests.

Elizabeth Dickinson

Experience: Dickinson also ran for mayor in 2005 on the Green Party ticket, and the only one of the leading 2017 contenders not aligned with the DFL. The 58-year-old is a life and career coach as well as a writer. She's done lobbying work in the past on issues including Minnesota's indoor smoking ban and funding for AIDS prevention. 

Public safety: Dickinson says law enforcement students should get more training in conflict resolution and problem solving before they become police officers and it should continue with refresher courses throughout their careers. 

She would also beef up the community ambassadors program that uses 1-on-1 contact to steer young people away from gangs.

Another priority:Dickinson says nothing would help St. Paul's working families more than a $15-an-hour minimum wage. She thinks it should be phased in over four to six years. 

She'd also have the city focus on working with schools and businesses to fill certain occupations that are already in high demand, citing the need for registered nurses as an example. 

Tom Goldstein

Experience: Goldstein, 60, served one term on the St. Paul school board. He has a degree from William Mitchell College of Law and has owned sports memorabilia stores.

Public safety: Goldstein has talked about improving public safety by addressing root causes of crime like poverty, unemployment, and homelessness. 

But after the two fatal shootings in one weekend in the Frogtown neighborhood, he put out a statement calling for "dramatically stepped-up policing in neighborhoods affected by random shootings." 

Goldstein says that would include more patrols in Frogtown, the North End and other neighborhoods "where shootings have become all too routine." 

He says it could be done by shifting resources to those hot spots. 

Another priority: Goldstein has called job creation his No. 1 priority. He wants to attract "cutting edge businesses" to St. Paul and would open an Office of Enterprise Development to help startups get funding and navigate the city code.

The other candidates

The five other people running for mayor are:

Trahern Crews, who calls himself the black independent mayoral candidate.

Chris Holbrook of the Libertarian Party whose sole focus is reducing property taxes.

Business owner Tim Holden, who says St. Paul paid no attention to his opposition to light rail.

Sharon Anderson, who runs for political office nearly every year. According to one tally she's been a candidate 31 times.

And Barnabas Y'Shua, who stays at a homeless shelter and told the Pioneer Press the Lord encouraged him to run for mayor. 

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