When St. Paul Mayor (and Democrat) Randy Kelly endorsed George W. Bush for president this year, much speculation was given on the effect this would have on his ability to win another election in the DFL-dominated city.
Some of the likeliest challengers, and most dangerous to Kelly's prospects, have dropped out already. But the Pioneer Press announces today one of the biggest names in St. Paul is throwing his hat into the ring:
Former St. Paul City Council Member Chris Coleman filed paperwork to run for St. Paul mayor on Tuesday and listed some marquee names among his early supporters.
Former Mayor George Latimer and former Police Chief William Finney were listed as co-chairs on the filing, which officially establishes a campaign committee for Coleman, who left office earlier this year after serving six years as the 2nd Ward council member.
Finney was himself considered a front-runner to take on the expected re-election effort by Mayor Randy Kelly but bowed out in November. Latimer was mayor from 1976 until 1990 and is considered the city's elder statesman. The two of them arguably are second only to the mayor in terms of political prominence in the city, possibly eclipsing even Coleman himself, who is the son of the late Senate Majority Leader Nick Coleman Sr.
Marquee names, indeed. The endorsements by Finney and Latimer, two beloved characters around St. Paul, will help Chris Coleman's prospects immensely. But the Pioneer Press fails to mention (irresponsibly so) two other marquee names who will be ardently supporting Chris Coleman's candidacy. Two with influence potentially far beyond what even Finney and Latimer wield.
In case you weren't aware, Chris Coleman's brother is none other than Nick Coleman of the Star Tribune. And Chris Coleman's sister-in-law is Laura Billings of the Pioneer Press. A political candidate's close family relations, ensconced in highly prominent positions at each arm of the local newspaper monopoly. I dare say no candidate in Twin Cities history has had such a clear nepotistic advantage in media coverage. Hopefully, the conflict of interest warning signs are blaring in the newsrooms of both papers.
The St. Paul mayoral race will be one of the biggest stories in Minnesota next year. It's an off-year election, so no statewide or federal races will be decided, giving this race more exposure. Randy Kelly's cross-party support of the Bush administration adds even more drama, and thus more interest, for the readership of both papers. And I find it hard to believe that Coleman and Billings would both ignore it. But responsible newspaper management would have to insist on it. Even if they're not overtly campaigning for their brother(in-law), the attacking of Kelly would serve the same purpose. I hope the editors of both papers take a good hard look at their columns for the next 11 months, to remove any signs of their trying to unfairly influence the St. Paul election. Anything less would be unethical and unfair to democracy (slight exaggeration).
Even without Billings' and Nick Coleman's overt support from the pulpit of their columns, Chris Coleman will probably win next year. If so, the conflict of interest complications will only continue for the Newspaper Newlyweds. Meaning, continued restrictions on their work would be in order.
Silencing Coleman/Billings from discussing St. Paul issues for another 4 years? Heck, I may vote for Chris Coleman.