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National Run for Office Day

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Today’s one of those hashtag days on social media, #NationalRunForOfficeDay, encouraging people to run for public office. There’s been a broad push in recent years to encourage people to be more engaged civically—especially under-represented people. But what about West St. Paul?

Going back 30 years, more than a third of the municipal elections in West St. Paul have been uncontested.

Of the 16 municipal elections in West St. Paul between 1988 and 2018, 11 have had at least one uncontested election on the ballot.

We just had our second uncontested school board election in two years.

What’s Bad About Uncontested Elections?

So what?

Sometimes uncontested elections mean people are happy with how things are going. Everything is working fine and there’s no reason to upset the status quo.

But uncontested elections can also mean all kinds of negative things:

  • People aren’t paying any attention to the local political process.
  • No one is stepping forward to serve.
  • Fewer people are engaged, which translates to lower turnout.
  • There’s little accountability for candidates.

It’s good for democracy to have contested elections. Ideas are sharpened when candidates are challenged.

Of course it’s easier and cheaper to have uncontested elections, but nobody said democracy should be easy or cheap.

“If you love where you live (or if you hate where you live and want to fix it), you need to run for city council.” -Amanda Litman, Run for Something

Run for Office

If you’re interested in running for office in West St. Paul, here are a few things you should know:

  • Open seats: Four seats will be up for election in 2020:
    • Mayor: The two-year mayoral term is up, currently held by Dave Napier.
    • Council: Three four-year council seats will be up, one for each ward. Currently held by Bob Pace (ward 1), Anthony Fernandez (ward 2), and Lisa Eng-Sarne (ward 3).
  • Dates to know:
    • Filing period opens: May 19, 2020
    • Filing period closes: June 2, 2020
    • Withdrawal deadline: June 4, 2020 (meaning you have a couple days to change your mind).
    • Primary election (if necessary): Aug. 11, 2020
    • General election: Nov. 3, 2020.
  • What’s required:
    • U.S. citizen
    • At least 18 years old
    • Live in Minnesota for 20 days prior to the election.
    • For mayor, live in West St. Paul at the time of the election.
    • For council, live in the ward you’re running in at the time of the election.
    • Finished with all parts of a felony sentence.
  • What’s it cost?: There’s a $20 filing fee, but that’s the only required expense. Between 2008 and 2018, the average cost for a city council campaign was $2,300. During that time, the candidate who spent the most won 56% of the time (not counting uncontested races). But there have been winning campaigns that didn’t spend anything.

There are also a lot of organizations out there helping people run for office (and talking up that hashtag):

Minnesota Organizations:

National Organizations:

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