Kelly campaigns as ‘moderate’

by Tom Ford

St. Paul mayoral candidate Randy Kelly has been a DFLer in the state Legislature for 27 years, but he says his political stance and campaign strategy put him in the middle of the political spectrum.

“I’m a moderate,” he said. “I will, if elected mayor, govern from the center.”

Kelly’s combination of liberal and conservative ideas and proposals have earned him wide-ranging support, and that concerns some members of his party.

“It looks like he got a lot of Republican endorsements,” said Bill Amberg, spokesperson for the Minnesota DFL.

The traditionally conservative St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as Republican Mayor Norm Coleman, have officially endorsed Kelly.

Kelly said he’d support privatizing city services if it reduced costs and improved
efficiency, a position public employee unions and his opponent, DFL-endorsed Jay Benanav, oppose.

“A lot of us are wondering if he’ll join the Republicans,” Amberg said.

Kelly said he always has and will continue to be a Democrat.

DFL state Rep. Andy Dawkins (St. Paul), who has known Kelly for 14 years and places himself on the far left of the political spectrum, endorsed Kelly.

“I actually think he’s the more socialist of the two candidates,” Dawkins said. He said Kelly was instrumental in getting state money to fund racial profiling studies in St. Paul and he will “really do a lot for poorer neighborhoods” in the city by paying attention to housing, education, public safety and mass transit.

Campaigning as a moderate, Dawkins said, is a smart move because it allows Kelly to appeal to many different people.

Sandra Westerman, vice president of public affairs with the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, said Kelly’s stance is beneficial.

“He works with a broad coalition to get things done,” Westerman said. “He will work across party lines.”

She said despite disagreements it has with Kelly, the chamber “will be able to work with (his) administration.”

“If I win, we will, in a lot of ways, perhaps realign the party more to the center rather than to the left,” Kelly said.

The DFL party, he said, is not tolerant of its members having diverse ideas, and rejects candidates who don’t adhere to a left-wing ideology.

“We have consistently, at the state as well as at the city level, endorsed candidates that did not resonate with the average taxpayer,” he said.

Kelly said his frugal proposals to keep taxes and spending low would appeal to a broad range of St. Paul citizens.

The most important issue he’ll address, he said, is public safety.

“If people do not feel safe in their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their communities, nothing really else matters,” Kelly said. “In order to have a healthy city you have to have a safe city.”

In his 27 years in the Legislature, Kelly said, he has specialized in public safety issues.

For example, he created the Minnesota Gang Strike Force – which he said has contributed to statewide crime decreases – and helped pass legislation enacting community notifications for sex offenders.

If elected, Kelly said he would ensure the city’s police and fire departments are fully staffed and trained.

He said he’d also address transportation and housing issues.

Over the next 20 years, Kelly said, the metro area will have about 600,000 new residents for which the city must prepare.

Developing a transportation system that includes light rail transit and improved bus service, he said, will be “key to the kind of quality of life and economic viability of our city.”

Furthermore, Kelly said the Twin Cities’ housing market is among the nation’s tightest.

“The next mayor is going to have to work very diligently to increase the production of housing in St. Paul for all income categories,” he said.

To accomplish this, Kelly said he plans to build 5,000 new housing units and would introduce a housing rights act, which would include provisions to keep homes up to city codes.

Kelly, a University graduate, has represented District 67 in St. Paul since 1990.

In the Sept. 11 primary he finished with 34 percent of the vote – second to Benanav, who received 37 percent. The general election is Nov. 6.


Tom Ford covers St. Paul and welcomes comments at [email protected]