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How Competitive Can Eva Ng Make the 2009 St. Paul Mayoral General Election?

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With Tuesday's primary election in St. Paul in the books, the expected mayoral matchup between DFLer incumbent Chris Coleman and Republican-endorsed Eva Ng is now set for the November general election.

The DFL's dominance in St. Paul politics is well established - other than Norm Coleman's second term from 1998-2002, the last Republican to hold the mayor's office in St. Paul was attorney John C. Daubney, who unseated incumbent Edward K. Delaney in 1952. (Political independents George J. Vavoulis (1960-1966) and Charles P. McCarty (1970-1974) also held the office in the past half-century to interrupt a string of Democratic mayors).

The extent to which Republicans face an uphill battle at making the mayoral race competitive in even a handful of St. Paul's 104 precincts is significant.

Only a small percentage of the city's electorate came out to vote in the primary on Tuesday (approximately 5 percent), with Ng receiving 26 percent of the vote. But, as demonstrated below, if Ng can improve on that result by any measure in November, she will have turned in a fairly impressive performance in one of the Gopher State's most liberal strongholds.

Smart Politics conducted an analysis of the 2008 presidential and U.S. Senate races at the precinct level in St. Paul. City-wide neither John McCain (22.4 percent) nor Norm Coleman (25.4 percent) received as large a percentage of the vote as Ng did on Tuesday.

In the presidential race, Barack Obama won all 104 precincts in St. Paul, winning 75.6 percent of the vote and notching a 53.2-point margin of victory over McCain city-wide. Obama not only won every precinct, but he won them all by double-digit margins:

· The lowest margin of victory for Obama was in Ward 4, Precinct 6, in which he defeated McCain by a margin of 19.1 points. This was the only precinct in which Obama did not receive at least 64 percent of the vote (58.9 percent).

· Each of the other 103 precincts gave Obama victory margins of at least 30 points, with 8 precincts between 30 and 39 points, 27 precincts between 40 and 49 points, 36 precincts between 50 and 59 points, 25 precincts between 60 and 69 points, 5 precincts between 70 and 79 points, 1 precinct at 80 points, and 1 precinct at 90 points (Ward 1, Precinct 5).

2008 Presidential Election Margin of Victory by Precinct in St. Paul

Victory margin
# of Precincts
McCain victory
0
Obama 0-9 points
0
Obama 10-19 points
1
Obama 20-29 points
0
Obama 30-39 points
8
Obama 40-49 points
27
Obama 50-59 points
36
Obama 60-69 points
25
Obama 70-79 points
5
Obama 80-89 points
1
Obama 90-99 points
1
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Even in the extremely competitive (statewide) U.S. Senate contest, the race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman was a blowout in almost every single precinct in St. Paul, with Franken winning 103 of 104 precincts by double digits.

City-wide, Franken defeated the former two-term Mayor of St. Paul by 36.1 points, 61.5 percent to 25.4 percent (Dean Barkley received 12.0 percent of the vote as the Independence Party nominee).

· Coleman won 1 of the 104 precincts in St. Paul (Ward 4, Precinct 6), but lost every other precinct by double-digits.

· Coleman lost by between 10 and 19 points in 7 precincts: in Ward 3, Precincts 5, 10 and 16; in Ward 4, Precinct 7, in Ward 6, Precincts 12 and 13, and in Ward 7, Precinct 10.

· Coleman lost by between 20 and 29 points in 18 precincts, between 30 and 39 points in 35 precincts, between 40 and 49 points in 30 precincts, between 50 and 59 points in 11 precincts, by 69 points in 1 precinct, and by 71 points in 1 precinct.

2008 U.S. Senate Election Margin of Victory by Precinct in St. Paul

Victory margin
# of Precincts
Coleman victory
1
Franken 0-9 points
0
Franken 10-19 points
7
Franken 20-29 points
18
Franken 30-39 points
35
Obama 40-49 points
30
Franken 50-59 points
11
Franken 60-69 points
1
Franken 70-79 points
1
Franken 80-89 points
0
Franken 90-99 points
0
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

With this recent historical backdrop, how closely can Eva Ng expect to get to defeating Mayor Coleman this November?

The last Republican challenger to square off in a St. Paul mayoral general election race was Bob Fletcher in 1989 (note: mayoral elections are officially non-partisan in St. Paul, and Ng refers to herself as a 'center-right conservative'). Fletcher ended up with 43.4 percent of the vote, losing by 13.1 points to James A. Schiebel to replace long-serving DFLer George Latimer.

Only 4 of the last 12 general election mayoral races in St. Paul have been competitive - decided by ten points or less:

· DFLer Larry Cohen's 7.8 point win over Dean Meredith and Hugo Hagstrom in 1974
· George Latimer's 3.2 point win over former Independent mayor George Vavoulis in 1976
· Norm Coleman's 10.4 point win over DFL-endorsed state representative Andy Dawkins in 1993
· Randy Kelly's 0.7 point win over DFL-endorsed Jay Benanav in 2001.

In Ng's favor, she is still relatively unknown among the electorate, and will therefore expect to build on the 26 percent of the vote she received in the primary. Of course, with only 5 percent of the electorate voting in the primary, it is difficult to judge whether Ng's current baseline of support is truly 26 percent, and to what extent Tuesday's voters are representative of who will turn out for the general election in less than two months.

But, in addition to her pro-business platform, Ng will no doubt place an emphasis on Mayor Coleman's potential gubernatorial interests in 2010, which could also garner her some additional support in the city.

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