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Montgomery, Howard say they will stay in race: McClain wins community endorsement

Last week Thursday, June 26, the race for Saint Paul City Council member Jerry Blakey’s seat, race got smaller. A total of eight candidates declared their intention to file for office in Saint Paul’s Ward 1. Last week Thursday, June 26, the race for Saint Paul City Council member Jerry Blakey’s seat, race got smaller. A total of eight candidates declared their intention to file for office in Saint Paul’s Ward 1. Filing begins July 1 and closes July 15.

The African American Leadership Council (AALC) moved to endorse community activist Robert McClain. Prior to the endorsement Melvin Carter and Johnny Howard agreed to abide by the AALC endorsement and drop out of the race. Howard, Friday changed his mind and announced he will continue to run. Debbie Montgomery, said she would continue her campaign.

“I have a lot of time and money invested in this race,” said Montgomery. “If we had this discussion a few months ago, I could consider honoring the endorsement. But now, I have endorsements and investments from other groups.” Montgomery has the endorsements of the Saint Paul Building Trades and was one of three candidates to receive an acceptable rating from the Saint Paul Teacher’s Federation.

For months, the Political Action Committee of the AALC body met in an attempt to narrow the field of African American candidates. The committee held a screening on June 12 where all candidates were asked a series of questions of leadership and their ability to run an effective campaign. The candidates were also asked to respond to a series of written questions. These questions were mailed to the entire AALC membership prior to Thursday’s endorsement.

At Thursday’s AALC meeting all paid members were eligible to vote for endorsement. In a process established prior to the endorsement, endorsement was decided following two ballots, with a voice affirmation following the final ballot.

The Rev. Darryl Spence placed the names of Carter, Howard, McClain, and Montgomery in to nomination. After the first ballot, McClain and Carter received the most votes. On a second ballot McClain received the most votes and was endorsed by voice affirmation. The number of votes each candidate received was not disclosed; the ballots were destroyed.

Political Action Chair, Lester Collins, thanked all of the candidates for running, “We are blessed as a community to have so many good candidates running for this office. We need to continue to see good people come forward and run for other offices,” he said.

Longtime community member, Kwame McDonald followed up with a commitment from the body to be respectful and supportive of both candidates. “It should be clear,” McDonald stated, “that an endorsement of this body is not anti-Debbie Montgomery. This body will move forward supporting Robert McClain, supporting a pro-McClain election.”

McClain thanked the membership for his endorsement and launched right into campaign strategy. He encouraged members to talk to their friends and neighbors about his campaign. He said, “Every person has to commit to taking at least five people to the polls. We have to do this the old fashion way and turn people out to vote.”

The departure of Carter and Howard leaves six candidates who have stated they will file before the July 15 deadline: Stuart Alger, McClain, Montgomery, Toua Moua Lee, Bao Vang, and Vic Rosenthal.

June 30, 2003
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