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Local Election Update: Voting, Money, & False Statements

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With Tuesday’s election quickly approach, here’s an update on the local city races here in West St. Paul. Check out our 2020 West St. Paul Voter’s Guide for the full details on local races.

Voting So Far

Earlier this week the city clerk reported that 41% of registered voters in West St. Paul have already voted via absentee ballot. It’s been a few days so we now have updated numbers, plus a new number of total registered voters (12,938).

Of those 12,938 voters:

  • 55% of registered voters in West St. paul have requested an absentee ballot.
  • Of those 55% with absentee ballots, 77% have already turned them in. Which means 43% of registered voters in West St. Paul have already voted. In 2012 only 9.8% voted absentee, and in 2016 it was 15%.

If you haven’t yet registered to vote, remember that Minnesota is an election-day registration state, which means you can walk up to your polling place on election day and register to vote. Learn more about where and how to vote.

Show Me the Money

Last week candidate financial filings were due, giving us a glimpse into campaign spending for the 2020 election. These are still preliminary numbers that will change, but it looks to be the most expensive combined election in West St. Paul history, easily beating a previous record set in 2018.

  • Most money: Ward 2 candidate Robyn Gulley has shattered the record for most expensive City Council race by raising more than $10,000. The previous record was $6,396 in David Meisinger’s losing 2018 campaign. Ward 3 candidate Lisa Eng-Sarne has also raised almost $8,400.
  • Least money: While Gulley may have raised the most, Meisinger has raised the least at $0 (his campaign appears to be entirely self funded). He’s spent more than $2,400 so far, so he’s not the least expensive campaign. That goes to Gulley’s opponent, Anthony Fernandez, who has so far spent only $1,500 (helped along by the fact the he previously ran for Council in 2016 and could reuse his signs).
  • Money gap: There’s actually a funding imbalance in three of the four races. Gulley in Ward 2, Eng-Sarne in Ward 3, and mayoral candidate Kimetha “KaeJae” Johnson have all vastly out-raised and out-spent their opponents. The Ward 1 race is a little closer with Bob Pace spending about $5,500 to Julie Eastman’s nearly $3,900 (they’ve both raised similar amounts, with Pace spending more while Eastman still has cash on hand). But money doesn’t always win: Going back to 2008 and looking only at contested races, the candidate who spent the most won 56% of the time. But for all three contested races in 2018, the candidate who spent the most money lost.
  • Who’s paying?: So where does all this money come from? $4,000 of Gulley’s total comes from various union groups (no big surprise there, given her strong union connections). So far Gulley, Eng-Sarne, Eastman, Johnson, and Pace seem to have a sizable number of donors (candidates aren’t required to itemize donations under $100, so it’s hard to put a number on it). Dave Napier and Fernandez seem to have less than a dozen, and Meisinger hasn’t reported any contributions.
  • Where’s the money go?: Campaign mailers, literature, and yard signs are the most expensive part of campaigning. One interesting note: Gulley has spent about $1,100 on “contractor wages,” which means she’s paying her campaign workers (she also reports having two dozen volunteers). That’s surprising for a small town city council race, but it’s not that surprising for a strong union supporter to be paying workers.

A lot of this could change as final reports come in after the election (we’ll do a full breakdown then), but one thing that won’t change is that this is an expensive election. (Speaking of money, in the interest of full disclosure: The campaigns of Johnson, Gulley, and Pace advertised on this site.)

False and Misleading Statements

In other campaign news, Meisinger continues to make false statements about public safety. This behavior prompted our endorsement of his opponent, Eng-Sarne, in the Ward 3 race.

The false statements have continued as Meisinger accused “women” in the race of attacking the police while he laments “unchecked crime and disorder.” Both are false, as the West St. Paul Police Department reports no significant increase in crime this year and we previously reported that Police Chief Brian Sturgeon said he doesn’t think any of the candidates are attacking the police.

Be sure to see our 2020 West St. Paul Voter’s Guide for more.

Please consider supporting West St. Paul Reader to ensure local election coverage continues.

4 comments

  1. Kevin, since we are days away from the election and many absentee ballots have not yet been turned in, do you have advice whether it is better for those ballots to be dropped off at the county collection site, or will ballots still be counted as long as they are postmarked by November 3?

  2. Please note that Secretary of State Steve Simon recommends that those who have not yet sent in their absentee ballot should NOT mail it in and should instead drop it off in person at their county collection site. (This is following a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that ballots received by mail after November 3 should be separated from the rest of the ballots.)

  3. Julian: Looks like you’ve answered your own question there. At this point, it’s too late to mail in your absentee ballot and be assured that it will arrive on time—at this point it’s unclear if ‘postmarked by election day’ is good enough (they will be set aside and could be challenged, as I understand it). The best thing to do for absentee ballots is to place them in the dropbox at West St. Paul’s city hall. The city clerk has said this is the preferred way to deliver them. Again there’s confusion here, but I think they need to be delivered by 3 p.m. on election day.

  4. Ugh, sorry to keep commenting, but according to the Star Tribune it was a panel of federal judges, not the State Supreme Court that I identified previously, that decided that ballots received by mail after November 3 must be set aside.

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