The Battle for Ward One

class=img_thumbleft>The Ward One city council race in St. Paul promises to be one of this year's most intriguing political contests. One-term incumbent Debbie Montgomery faces at least two contenders for the post.

Melvin Carter III officially kicked off his campaign Saturday at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center. Roughly 100 supporters packed a classroom at the center where, Carter noted, he grew up running track and taking piano lessons. In a high energy speech that evoked the history of the central St. Paul ward, along with its diversity, the 28-year-old made clear that he will be a formidable contender. "Our work is great, but our message is simple," Carter told the crowd. "As one we win."

Four years ago Montgomery, a retired St. Paul cop, outpolled a broad field of contenders to secure the post, beating Bao Vang in the general election by 357 votes. But Montgomery's tenure on the council has been marked by widespread frustration over her fickleness. More than one political observer has remarked that whomever has her ear last is likely to get her vote.

(Tou Ger Xiong, Vic Rosenthal, Melvin Carter III, and Bill Finney.)

Carter has already garnered the backing of ACORN and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (which four years ago endorsed Vang). An impressive assemblage of supporters were on hand at the MLK center. Former police chief Bill Finney spoke on his behalf, as did Vic Rosenthal, executive director of Jewish Community Action (and four years ago a candidate himself for the Ward One post). Longtime union and DFL activist Roy Magnuson was on hand to lend support, along with Pakou Hang, who is challenging veteran incumbent Dan Bostrom in Ward Six.


Vang said last week that she will once again be seeking the council seat. Another rumored candidate, however, Brooke Blakey, said that she's not running and will support the incumbent. The ward has traditionally been represented by an African American (Jerry Blakey and Bill Wilson held the post prior to Montgomery), a point of considerable pride in the black community. Montgomery is the sole minority on the city council.

Carter's resume includes working as an organizer with Wellstone Action and serving on the board of Take Action Minnesota. Most recently he worked as a policy associate for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, a post that he resigned last month to run for city council. His mother, Toni Carter, is a Ramsey County Commissioner, while his father, Melvin Carter, Jr., is a retired cop.