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Who’s Running: 2022 Election in West St. Paul

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A number of seats will be on the ballot this year to represent West St. Paul, including city council, mayor, county commissioner, state legislators, and more. We’ll track confirmed candidates as we approach the filing deadline on May 31. Then it’s a primary on August 9 and the general election on November 8.

So who’s going to run?

West St. Paul

Let’s start with local, non-partisan positions in West St. Paul, which include the mayor and one council seat in each of the three wards. The mayor serves a two-year term and city council members serve a four-year term. Use this city map to find out which ward you live in (note that there were recent changes to the wards).

If there are more than two candidates for any race, there will be a primary on August 9. The two top candidates in the primary will go on to the general election on November 8.

Want to know what it’s like to run and serve in West St. Paul? Read our interview with former West St. Paul City Council Member Darlene Lewis.


City Council Ward 1

  • Kimetha “KaeJae” Johnson – Running, officially filed (campaign site) – The 2020 mayoral candidate announced her run for city council in March.
  • Dick Vitelli (incumbent) – Not running – Told us via email that he’s not running, adding, “Time to retire.”

City Council Ward 2

  • John Justen (incumbent) – Running, officially filed (campaign site)

City Council Ward 3

  • Wendy Berry (incumbent) – Running, officially filed (campaign site)

Dakota County

There are several contested races in Dakota County, which include the non-partisan positions of county commissioner, county attorney, and county sheriff (all four-year terms). While attorney and sheriff are county-wide positions, commissioners represent districts and West St. Paul is in District 2 (though changes could come with county redistricting in April). If there are more than two candidates for any seat, there will be a primary on August 9.

We covered county candidates beginning to line up last fall.

County Attorney

  • Kathryn Keena (incumbent) – Running, officially filed (campaign site) – Appointed in 2021 after the resignation of Jim Backstrom.
  • Elizabeth Lamin – Running (campaign site) – Current assistant prosecutor for Ramsey County, finalist along with Keena for the appointment in 2021.
  • Matt Little – Running (campaign site) – Former state senator and mayor of Lakeville.
  • Jeff Sheridan – Running, officially filed (campaign site) – Longtime lawyer.

County Sheriff

  • Joe Leko – Running, officially filed (campaign site) – The current Dakota County Chief Deputy announced his campaign shortly after incumbent Sheriff Tim Leslie bowed out.
  • Tim Leslie (incumbent) – Not running – Officially announced his decision not to run in early March. He did encourage Chief Deputy Joe Leko to run.

County Commissioner District 2

  • Joe Atkins – Running, officially filed – The incumbent District 4 commissioner was moved into District 2 thanks to redistricting. He confirms he will run for the District 2 seat.
  • Jimmy Francis – Running, officially filed (campaign site) – Rumors have circulated about the current South St. Paul mayor running, but they’ve been confirmed.
  • Kathleen Gaylord (incumbent) – Not running – Officially announced earlier this year that she won’t seek another term.
  • Robyn GulleyNot running – The current West St. Paul city council member initially announced her run in November, but after redistricting meant she’d face incumbent Joe Atkins, she announced in April that she’s suspending her campaign and supporting Atkins.
  • Lori Hansen – Considering – The current South St. Paul city council member is considering a run, but won’t make an official announcement until after the county redistricting is complete in April. 

Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor District 2

  • Laura Zanmiller – Running – The incumbent supervisor plans to run again (we interviewed her in 2020 about what this position entails.)

Minnesota Legislature

Due to redistricting, West St. Paul is now divided into two separate legislative districts, which means new complications, including no incumbents in either House race. These are partisan races, which means candidates run for a specific party. If there is more than one candidate for a single party, there will be a primary on August 9 to determine the party’s candidate. House seats are two years and Senate seats are four years.

House District 53A

  • Mary Frances Clardy – Running as DFL (campaign site) – The current ISD 199 school board member announced her run in February. Clardy received the DFL endorsement.

House District 65B

  • Anna Botz – Running as DFL (campaign site) – A photographer, small business owner, West Sider, and self-described “neighborhood lady who happens to care a lot.”
  • María Isa – Running as DFL, officially filed (campaign site) – A community organizer, recording artist, and West Sider, Isa announced a run for state Senate in 2021, but switched to House with the retirement of incumbent Carlos Mariani. Isa received the DFL endorsement.
  • Carlos Mariani (incumbent) – Not running – Officially announced in January that he won’t seek another term.

Senate District 53

  • Matt Klein (incumbent) – Running as DFL (campaign site) – Klein received the DFL endorsement.
  • Christopher Rausch – Running as GOP – Rausch registered a committee with the campaign finance board. No campaign site yet, but he is on Twitter.
  • Tomas Settell – The 2020 GOP challenger did not respond to our inquiry. As of March, his social media and website were still active, but haven’t been updated to reflect the new district. He did report more than $4,400 in campaign expenses in 2021, which may indicate a plan to run.

Senate District 65

  • Zuki Ellis – Running as DFL (campaign site) – Current St. Paul school board member. On the day of the DFL SD 65 Convention she announced that she’s droping out of the endorsement process but will still run in the primary.
  • Sheigh Freeberg – Running as DFL (campaign site) – Union organizer in St. Paul.
  • Sandy Pappas (incumbent) – Running as DFL (campaign site) – Pappas received the DFL endorsement.
  • Paul Holmgren – The 2020 GOP challenger did not respond to our inquiry.

(Pappas received the DFL endorsement at the convention on March 26, though Ellis bowed out of the endorsement process at the last minute and both Ellis and Freeberg will contest the primary.)


We’ll do our best to keep this updated as we approach the filing period. It won’t be official until candidates can file starting on May 17 through May 31 (and they have until June 2 to withdraw).

Then it’s time to vote on November 8 (and an August 9 primary). Make sure you’re registered to vote.

Remember: People can change their minds. Even with a confirmation, this list isn’t official. Life happens and things change. Also, we’re not dealing in speculation. These are confirmed candidates willing to share that info publicly—not everyone is ready or willing to share that info.

Why Talk Who’s Running?

The topic of who’s running has often been a subject of gossip and whispers. But it’s good for our local democracy to have an open conversation about who’s running.

  • If you like who’s running, you can start to build positive buzz.
  • If you don’t like who’s running, maybe you should talk to your neighbors and find someone else (or you should run!).
  • If a race is uncontested—and more than a third of West St. Paul races have been uncontested in the past 30 years—then maybe it’s time to start recruiting. Contested elections are good for our democracy.
  • And just because someone is running, that doesn’t mean you or someone else can’t or shouldn’t run. Our democracy is strengthened by participation.

This local coverage is supported by our generous members. You can join them through Patreon and support local news.

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