St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly sent out an interesting letter to the city's DFLers earlier this month. After repeatedly asserting his Democratic Party bona fides, Kelly announced that he won't be seeking the party's endorsement at the April 30 citywide convention. This was no big surprise. Given that the mayor endorsed President Bush's reelection last summer, he had no chance of actually garnering significant support among the party faithful.
But the interesting part of the letter was Kelly's assessment of his two chief rivals, Chris Coleman and Rafael Ortega. The Mayor took numerous potshots at Coleman for failing to be a loyal DFLer. He noted that the former St. Paul City Council member had run against the DFL-endorsed candidate in the 2000 congressional race and that Coleman had supported Kelly against the party standard-bearer in the 2001 mayoral contest.
By comparison, Kelly lavished Ortega with praise (although he did repeatedly misspell his name). "While Raphael [sic] and I will disagree on many of the issues, and solutions to the challenges facing Saint Paul in the future," Kelly wrote, "I have no doubt that he will continue to be aggressive and earnest in his beliefs."
The obvious subtext of this message: Kelly believes Ortega would be a weaker opponent in the general election. The mayor is hoping to sway DFL fence-sitters by impugning Coleman's party loyalty. With the race extremely tight, Kelly's meddling could prove significant. The only question is whether it will have the impact that he intends.