A historic all-female City Council has been elected in St. Paul after Anika Bowie and Cheniqua Johnson were declared winners Friday in their races.
After hours of vote tabulation Friday by the Ramsey County Elections Office, Johnson won Ward 7 by a slim margin against second-place finisher Pa Der Vang. Bowie won by a wide margin in Ward 1 against runner-up James Lo. The tabulation was required because neither won 51 percent or more of the first-choice votes in Tuesday’s election. St. Paul observes ranked choice voting.
The new City Council will also be composed of six people of color, making it the most racially diverse St. Paul City Council in history.
The council, which will be sworn in next year, is the “youngest, most progressive and most diverse” in the city’s history, said a joint statement issued Friday by Council Members Mitra Jalali, Rebecca Noecker, and Nelsie Yang, and Council Members-elect Bowie, Johnson, Saura Jost, and Hwa Jeong Kim.
“These historic results reflect Saint Paul’s voters and their values,” the statement said. “Despite over a quarter-million dollars of conservative special interest spending citywide, organized people beat organized money. Saint Paul voters united, and through thousands of volunteer hours and grassroots donations, elected a diverse, progressive new Council for our city. This historic moment was made possible by the relentless work of these campaigns alongside a community coalition of faith leaders, labor allies, frontline city workers, educators, public safety, housing and climate action advocates, and more.
“Today, we thank our community coalition and thousands of supporters for entrusting us with the responsibility of leading our city forward for a better future. We also thank the hundreds of election judges, poll workers and staff who make local elections happen, down to counting every last ballot.”
Incumbents Jalali, Yang, and Noecker won reelection in their wards. Newcomers Kim won the Ward 5 race and Jost won in Ward 3.
“When we take office January 2024, we are excited to govern alongside our community,” said the new council’s joint statement, “building toward our shared vision for Saint Paul these next four years, including: upholding and improving rent stabilization, championing equitable development and housing options at all income levels, community wealth-building through community ownership, building climate resilience through modernizing our streets and bike/pedestrian infrastructure, investing in community safety programs that are interrupting cycles of violence, expanding workers’ rights and protections, and more.
“We gratefully close this chapter today. We look forward to resting, then resuming the work ahead with our community for a better Saint Paul.”
Bowie, 31, is an entrepreneur and lives in the Frogtown neighborhood. She told Sahan Journal before Election Day that she was running “to bring a global perspective to Ward 1, uniting diverse voices.”
“Ward 1 is in the heart of Saint Paul and we ran a race with a heart to serve everyone no matter their race, gender, income, religion, or sexual orientation,” Bowie said in the written statement issued Friday by the new council. “This election brought out historic turnout and a wide range of choices on the ballot, thanks to ranked-choice voting.”
Johnson, 28, is a program officer at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, and is a first-time homeowner in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood.
“I came in really feeling determined to see this through, to sit there patiently waiting for the process to take its hold, and for basically God to do his work,” Johnson said shortly after declaring victory Friday. “Towards the end, you just feel like the work has paid off, and knowing that you left it on the table when you walk into a space is the best feeling in the world, followed by actually winning because of it.”
While votes will be tabulated Monday in the Ward 3 race, the candidate who finished second in first-choice votes, Isaac Russell, has already conceded to Jost. Jost received about 48 percent of the first-choice votes to Russell’s 30 percent.
Russell asked for a full count on second-choice votes, acknowledging that winning is unlikely.
Jost, 35, is a civil engineer who lives in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, and has been a DFL organizer for many years.
“My vision for a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable city mobilized a diverse coalition and local supporters that led to countless hours on the doors and the largest small-donor funded campaign in the race,” Jost said in the statement released Friday by the new council. “I’m eager to get to work, with our neighbors and my City Council colleagues, to build a better Saint Paul.”
Kim, 38, is the executive director of a nonprofit, and lives in the North End neighborhood. She’s worked to help elect progressive women, women of color, and LGBTQ women to public office.
“I am excited to work together with such a talented group of leaders and my Ward 5 neighbors to address housing, strengthen workers rights, invest in climate change solutions and resourced community-first public safety,” Kim said in the new council’s written statement.