St. Paul re-elects Benanav to council

Voters in the neighborhoods near the University’s St. Paul campus re-elected City Council member Jay Benanav in a landslide Tuesday.

With 92 percent of precincts reporting, Benanav, who represents the city’s 4th Ward, had 77 percent of about 4,000 votes cast. Challenger Denise Gulner took 23 percent. Thirty-five voters cast write-in ballots.

Benanav has authored two proposals in the past year that single out student renters.

A proposal in March would have required student rental properties to be at least 350 feet from each other.

One of his more recent proposals would force residents of single- and double-occupancy properties to have inspections before moving in. Currently, only units with three or more residents need the inspection.

The checks would look for over-occupancy and health code violations in student rental properties.

However, if the St. Paul City Council approves another housing proposal being heard today, Benanav said, he would consider putting his student housing ordinance on hold indefinitely.

That plan, by Neighborhood Housing and Property Improvement director Andy Dawkins, would impose tougher building and health code regulations for all Merriam Park residents, not just students.

“I would like to see if Dawkins’ department can clean up the rental properties,” Benanav said.

Duluth elects new mayor

Duluth needed a new mayor, so voters borrowed one from Wisconsin.

Former Superior, Wis., mayor Herb Bergson was elected mayor of Duluth on Tuesday, beating businessman Charlie Bell 57-42 percent.

Bergson, a police detective in Superior, lives in Duluth and was already a Duluth city councilman.

Duluth’s mayor of 12 years, Gary Doty, did not run for re-election.

Goodridge voters approve school levy

Scores of Minnesota school districts asked voters for money for operating expenses, computers, and new schools.

In Goodridge, population 98, many people saw the referendum to levy for $1,750 per pupil as a vote on whether the town would keep its school. It has already lost its grocery store, and the only restaurant in town comes from the local bar.

“There’s not a lot left in Goodridge, but there will be a lot less than this if the school closes,” voter Richard Parnow said.

Seventy-four percent of Goodridge school district voters agreed with Parnow, voting 172-59 for a tax increase that will raise property taxes on an average-valued home in the district by $220 a year.

Goodridge has 168 students in its K-12 school, 64 fewer than five years ago. It expects to lose another 16 students over the next four years. The referendum will raise $252,000 per year. Of that, $67,000 will be the local share and $185,000 will come from the state.

Elections nationwide

Rep. Ernie Fletcher won the Kentucky governor’s race Tuesday, ousting Democrats from power after 32 years. Washington lobbyist Haley Barbour was leading in his bid to unseat Mississippi Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove as the GOP sought to build on gains in the South.

In Philadelphia, one of three big-city mayoral races, Democratic incumbent John Street handily defeated Republican businessman Sam Katz, 59 percent to 41 percent. And Democrats took control of the New Jersey Legislature, breaking a 20-20 tie in the state Senate and defeating the GOP’s top Senate leader.

Ballot initiatives

Maine voters rejected big-time casino gambling Tuesday, defeating a proposal by two Indian tribes to build a $650 million Las Vegas-style resort that critics said would tarnish the state’s image. In Denver, voters rebuffed a measure aimed at reducing stress.

– Andrew Pritchard, Eric Swanson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.