The most interesting development in the St Paul mayoral race this week was the release of former City Council member (Ward Three) Pat Harris’ (DFL) “Safe St Paul” plan for increasing police by 50 FTEs during his four years in office. The cost of such a program would be about $7.5 million and there’s not any direction on where that would come out of the budget. When it was released on Monday, the other candidates questioned the reason for the proposal and where the money would come from.
This proposal reinforces the perception of Harris being the more conservative candidate. A law and order appeal strikes a chord with older and more conservative voters. As we have scrutinized the support base of the Harris campaign we can see direct support from many prominent Republican contributors.
Harris has received financial support from 2014 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Mike McFadden, Minneapolis Police Union President Bob Kroll, which was later returned and Republican spokesperson for Governor Tim Pawlenty Brian McClung, Republican political operatives Mike Zipko, Carl Kuhl, Patrick Connolly and former Republican legislator now lobbyist Joel Carlson.
If the strategy of the Harris campaign is to cultivate the voters on the right and there may not be enough votes on that side of the formula to win the day. The only two candidates appealing to the right are Harris and Tim Holden (R). Since the winnowing of the field will take place during the tabulations of RCV Harris may be in the uncomfortable position of holding the conservative spot but not generating many second-choice votes. Because if candidates drop as we anticipate then Holden votes move to Harris but Holden only carried 4978 votes in 2013 against Mayor Chris Coleman (DFL) and we expect a lower percentage this election. If the universe of voters is less than 45,000, as we believe, the bump Harris gets will be no more than 10 or 11%.
While, on the left side of the formula are former City Council Member Melvin Carter III (DFL), Elizabeth Dickinson (GR), current Council member (Ward One) Dai Thao (DFL), and Tom Goldstein (DFL).
When Goldstein‘s votes are reallocated, we doubt they will go to Harris. There is a possibility of some of the Thao votes, especially members of the Hmong Chamber of Commerce may move to Harris, but the big question is how large is that block of votes. We are quite assured when Dickinson’s votes are re-distributed we are highly doubtful those votes will land with Harris.
So while Harris has consolidated his base, in a system where base plus voting seems to be the rule, he may not have many opportunities for second choice votes to move in his direction.