Benanav considers recount after slim loss

by Tom Ford

Sen. Randy Kelly, DFL-St. Paul, will take the reins of St. Paul as the city’s next mayor after narrowly beating his opponent, Jay Benanav.

“I want to thank Jay and all his supporters for their commitment to St. Paul,” Kelly said. “We will surely need them in the months and years to come.”

Kelly garnered 29,819 votes while Benanav received 29,416.

But Benanav did not concede and said he intends to wait to see official figures Wednesday.

“We worked too hard to resolve this quickly rather than accurately,” he said.

Because current vote margins put Kelly ahead by more than 100 votes, Minnesota election statutes don’t require a recount. But Benanav has the right to press for one at his own expense.

Benanav’s campaign staff said they’re comparing this race with last year’s presidential election.

“We may be going into extra innings,” Benanav said.

Andrea Mokros, Benanav’s campaign spokeswoman, said some St. Paul precincts received more voters than expected and were forced to photocopy ballots and count them by hand.

Voting results did not come until approximately 11 p.m., delaying Kelly’s arrival at his celebration at Mancini’s Liquor and Bar, where he gave a victory speech.

“What we’ve done over the last eight years needs to be continued,” he said.

“This has been a wonderful experience. I have an even greater appreciation for how wonderful our great St. Paul is.”

Kelly said it will be important to define his administration during his first two or three months.

“We’ll certainly hit the ground running,” he said.

Among his immediate plans is a race summit bringing all the
cultures of St. Paul together to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

During the next legislative session Kelly said he will push to secure state money for a replacement of Roy Wilkins Auditorium and a new library at Metropolitan State University.

Kelly, a 33-year St. Paul resident, has represented districts in the Minnesota Legislature for 27 years. Between 1974 and 1990 he was a state representative. Currently, he serves as a member of the Senate for District 67, which includes parts of the East Side neighborhood.

He will succeed Norm Coleman, St. Paul mayor since 1993, who opted to challenge Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., in the upcoming senate race.

Benanav has represented St. Paul’s 4th Ward since 1997 and been a resident of the city for 25 years. At the front of the DFL-endorsed candidate’s agenda was increasing affordable housing availability, opposing the use of public tax dollars for professional stadiums and using public funds to increase economic development in St. Paul.