Kelly’s loss to Coleman blamed on his Bush support

Than Tibbetts

St. Paul voters resoundingly denounced Mayor Randy Kelly’s bid for a second term Tuesday.

DFL-endorsed challenger Chris Coleman leveraged Kelly’s August 2004 endorsement of President George W. Bush against him to capture more than twice as many votes as the incumbent in the Democratic city.

Coleman received 69 percent of the votes to Kelly’s 31 percent.

Kelly joined Bush at a campaign stop in August 2004, telling the crowd that the president was the person “best prepared” to lead the country.

Coleman said the race for the mayor’s office has never been about the president, but rather about the city of St. Paul.

Bob Hume, the Coleman campaign’s communications director, said Coleman will announce his transition plans Thursday. Hume said Coleman will focus on education and work to fulfill his campaign promises.

“He’s going to do the things that he ran on,” Hume said. “Chris is very humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead the city he’s lived in his entire life.”

Throughout his campaign, Kelly tried to downplay the endorsement, eventually asking voters not to head to the polls in anger just before the primary elections in September.

After the results of the election became clear, Kelly said his decision played a lot in his defeat. He said he would accept the voters’ judgment and look to the future.

Kelly campaign communications director Vince Muzik did not comment on the Bush endorsement. Muzik said Kelly hasn’t thought about what he plans to do once him term expires Jan. 2.

“(Kelly is) going to keep working hard for St. Paul and doing his job,” Muzik said.

Bonnie Reynolds, who is the president of the resident council at Seal High Rise, one of St. Paul’s polling stations, said Kelly’s endorsement of Bush did not affect her decision.

“I like President Bush and think he’s doing an effective job,” she said. “I’m sure (the endorsement affected) a lot of other people, but not me.”

Renee Flacksbarth, an 18-year resident of St. Anthony Park, said she hoped Kelly’s endorsement wouldn’t have an impact on the election. She said she hoped people would look into Kelly’s statistics.

Building caretaker Virgil Calamese said he thought it was time for a change in St. Paul.

He said he thought the endorsement was likely going to be a major factor in the election results.

“It shocked a lot of people,” he said.