St. Paul School Board Special Election

Early Voting in Minnesota has officially begun! In addition to the critical state and national races on the ballot this year, St. Paul voters will elect a candidate to serve a one-year term on the school board. Six candidates are running for the seat held by school board chair Marny Xiong, who passed away in June. This seat will also be the ballot during regular school board elections in 2021.

Given the short timeline for the special election, and further constraints imposed by the pandemic, the St. Paul DFL’s Central Committee decided not to endorse a candidate in the special election. However, we did invite each candidate to provide written materials to introduce themselves to DFL voters. Below are links to the written statements of the five candidates who have responded to our request. 

We encourage all DFL voters to read the candidates’ statements, check out their websites, and reach out directly to the campaigns with questions. We thank all of the candidates for stepping up. 

Remember Early Voting goes from September 18th to November 2nd. Election Day is November 3rd.

Charlotte Castro (read profile here)

James Farnsworth (read profile here)

Jamila Mame (read profile here)

Omar Syed (read profile here)

Jim Vue (read profile here)

A Note on Upcoming Business Meeting and Elections

Attention Members of the St. Paul DFL Central Committee:
I hope you are well and that you and your families are safe and healthy. As you might remember, we had scheduled our city party’s business conference for Sunday, June 14th, but it can wait. Now is the time for us to stand side by side with our community members as we remember the legacy of George Floyd, push for justice, and continue to take the steps to support our communities.
Therefore, we will be postponing the business conference until later this summer. I will be in touch during the coming weeks with updates and next steps.
The main agenda item at the business conference will be electing our slate of St. Paul DFL Officers (Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, Secretary and Outreach Director). Additionally, we will select ten At- Large Director positions. Descriptions of the officer and director roles can be found in the bylaws.
The Nominations Committee is developing the slate of candidates. As a way to ensure we have an open process, we are proactively asking anyone who is interested in a St. Paul DFL Officer or At- Large Director position, to please email by Friday, July 3rd. I also encourage you to share this information with anyone you know who might be interested in taking on a leadership role.
The turmoil that has rocked the Twin Cities has shown there is still so much work yet to be done to dismantle white supremacy and the systemic, racist policies that have plagued our communities, and this nation, for far too long. I look forward to working with all of you to continue building community power, cultivating strong leaders, and advocating for policies that will promote healing, equity, and justice.
Garrison McMurtrey, Chair

Vote DFL on Nov. 5th!

Hey DFLers: Here is a list of DFL endorsed candidates and links to the sample ballots for more information! If you have any questions, give us a shout at

School Board: You can vote for 4 candidates, but the DFL only endorsed 3. Sample ballot for school board is here SPDFL2019-A-all_wards and SPDFL2019-B-ward6

  • Zuki Elli
  • Chauntyll Allen
  • Steve Marchese

Ward 1 City Council: Dai Thao  sample ballot is SPDFL2019-B-ward1

Ward 2 City Council: Rebecca Noecker sample ballot is SPDFL2019-B-ward2

Ward 3 City Council:  Chris Tolbert sample ballot is SPDFL2019-B-ward3

Ward 4 City Council:  Mitra Jalali Nelson sample ballot is SPDFL2019-B-ward4

Ward 5 City Council: Amy Brendmoen sample ballot is SPDFL2019-B-ward5

Ward 6 City Council: No DFL endorsement 

Ward 7 City Council: Jane Prince sample ballot is SPDFL2019-B-ward7

Vote Yes for Coordinated Collection: The DFL exists to consider candidates and issues on the ballot. This referendum is no different than the marriage equality, voter ID, and the school referendums. We are proud to let you know that we also endorsed Vote Yes for Coordinated Collection. We know there is a lot of trash talk out there—but the Supreme Court was pretty clear: the contract stands as is regardless of what happens at the ballot box. Voting No doesn’t stop the current contract or force any negotiations—it only spreads out the cost of residential trash to every property owner in the City—business and residential. We believe that we can Vote Yes for Coordinated Collection and find shared solutions for our City’s challenges together. See the Vote Yes Mailer here: 2019 VoteYes-mailer-B and 2019 VoteYes-mailer-A.

Meet the candidates: Chauntyll Allen for School Board!

Last but not at all the least in our DFL candidate series: Chauntyll Allen for School Board! We are so pleased to give you Chauntyll’s answers to our questions:

Why did you decide to run?

I am an educator, youth advocate, and community leader who brings people together and speaks truth to power. I’m a graduate of St. Paul Central High School and have 25 years of experience working with youth in schools and child protection. I’m an expert in addressing impact of trauma, including urban trauma, and creating safe spaces where people can learn, grow, and thrive.

This is what our district needs to move forward. I realized that I need to step up further, to be able to influence policy at a district level, moving past Chauntyll AssataSpeaksthe school based and individual influence I already have.

I am running to create a school-to-success pipeline to support all kids. I will do this by creating a safe, trauma-free environment in schools; providing culturally-competent curricula; expanding community full-service schools that address the broader needs of the students, their families, and the communities at large, and bringing a greater focus on trades in the schools.

What’s your vision for the St.Paul School District 30 years from now and advice for the Class of 2049?

My Vision: Schools will be more innovative in ways that use tools we can’t even imagine now. There may be more creative uses of social resources and less ties to traditional classrooms. Teachers will be inspirers and guides, because many of the social challenges students face will have been eliminated or addressed by other organizations.

To the Class of 2049: I hope that it’ll be the norm to live in a society that has circled back to caring about humans and nature and advancement of humanity. As you live your life, take full advantage of living life, finding out who you are and how you fit into society to Chauntyll Familymake things better. Continue pattern of people before you to move things forward. Believe in yourself and believe in each other.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

To me, this is about being community focused.  I will actively promote community participation at board meetings, especially if it’s uncomfortable.  I will help the board come up with a structure that supports Student, Staff, and Parent voices within policy making and the  roll out of new ideas. I will actively build on other school districts’ successes and learn from their failures. I will work to ensure fiscally responsible management. Finally, I will use my skills as an activist and my community network to identify and pilot innovative solutions for the benefit of the SPPS students.

What’s the last book you read?

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas so that I can discuss it with one of the kids I work with.

Name one previous teacher/ administrator who left a lasting impact on your life?

Katie McWatt. She inspired me to always work in my community. Chauntyll GroupShe was an activist and educator who understood youth. Her message can be heard here:

Connect with Chauntyll’s campaign online at or on Facebook at:

Vote DFL on November 5th!

Here is a list of all the candidates that we chose to endorse this cycle and a link to our sample ballot. Together, we endorsed:

Zuki Ellis, Chauntyll Allen & Steve Marchese for School Board

Dai Thao, Ward 1 City Council

Rebecca Noecker, Ward 2 City Council

Chris Tolbert, Ward 3 City Council

Mitra Jalali Nelson, Ward 4 City Council

Amy Brendmoen, Ward 5 City Council

Jane Prince, Ward 7 City Council 

Also, the DFL addresses any ballot issue it is asked to—whether candidates, marriage amendments, voter ID, school referendums or trash issues—as we don’t pick and choose what is on the ballot. And we do this as a party at all levels—whether at the State party, Congressional, Senate district, House district—and the City. When asked to consider the trash referendum—we chose overwhelmingly to Vote Yes!  We know the contract isn’t perfect—but either way the current system continues according to the Supreme Court’s ruling. Voting No doesn’t stop the current contract or force any negotiations—it only spreads out the cost of residential trash to every property owner in the City—business and residential. We believe that we can Vote Yes for Coordinated Collection and find shared solutions for our City’s challenges together. (Mailer Side A, Side B)

Join the St. Paul DFL on Facebook at:

Meet the Candidates: Steve Marchese for School Board!

Next up on our Vote DFL Candidate Series–Steve Marchese for School Board! Here are Steve’s answers to our questions:

Why did you decide to run?

As a parent of SPPS students, I had been active in their schools and was familiar with many of the issues facing parents in the district.  As a lawyer, I bring skills and abilities that I believe are needed on the board – a willingness to ask tough questions, a focus on the need for wise use of fiscal and human resources and experienceSEM_5592 on other boards.  Also, as someone who works in public interest law, I see the connection between our educational system and the need for access to the legal system for low and moderate income people like many of our families.


What’s your vision for the St.Paul School District 30 years from now and advice for the Class of 2049?

I want to see SPPS providing rigorous, culturally relevant education for all of our students that prepares them to realize their dreams and goals.  I want SPPS graduates to be engaged members of our community who bring critical thinking skills, as well as compassion to their work.  For the Class of 2049, I suggest they always be ready for change – that the world moves fast and their education has prepared them to adapt to changing environments and demands.  Also, I urge them to be lifelong learners – to bring a spirit of inquiry to everything they do.


How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

As a board member, much of my job is to listen actively to the needs, experiences and SEM_5520concerns of students, staff and families.  For me, that means creating opportunities to be in conversation throughout the city – for example, I hosted coffee “office” hours throughout the city to make sure I am accessible and provide space for folks to bring their thoughts and concerns to me.  I also know that, as a white professional man, I need to make sure I am in places and spaces with folks who I do not regularly see in my daily life to make sure I am learning from them about their experiences in SPPS. Finally, my guidepost is ensuring the district is acting equitably and addressing the needs of students who do not look like me or my children.   We are all neighbors in this city – my future and my children’s future is intertwined with the future of all of our children in St. Paul.


What’s the last book you read?

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – it’s his autobiography of his early years in South Africa as a bi-racial man.  I did a lot of anti-apartheid work in college during the 80’s and this reminded me of the personal impact of racism, power and hierarchy.  It’s also a well-written and engaging read.


Name one previous teacher/ administrator who left a lasting impact on your life?

Mrs. Alcaly, my 6th grade teacher – I grew up in a working class white ethnic neighborhood in the borough of Queens in New York City. SEM_5508 I didn’t know many professionals, beyond my teachers, and was the first in my family to go to college.  Mrs. Alcaly lived in Manhattan in a world I knew existed, but could not access on my own.  She believed in me, shared aspects of her life in class and made me see that I could aspire to live differently.  Being in her class broadened my mind and world view.


Connect with Steve’s campaign online at

Connect with Steve on Facebook at

Meet the candidates: Zuki Ellis for School Board

Next up: Zuki Ellis, DFL endorsed candidate for School Board! Here are Zuki’s answers to our questions:

Why did you decide to run?

Four years ago, I launched my run for school board from a place of anger, and of passionate belief that our district could do better. Advocating for my youngest child, navigating the district for support, trying to bridge home, school, district resources – all these things were frustrating, painful and maddening. I felt a parent perspective was needed. 

I am a graduate of St Paul Public Schools. I am proud of that. I’m a child of this city, this district and this community. It worked for me, and it needs to work for all of our kids. This is something that I take very seriously.

Zuki ELlis photo

I am still working to change our board policy, our practice – to ensure our belief in students and support for the amazing people who work in SPPS is steadfast. I believe we now have the right leadership and the right plan to give our kids what they need to succeed.

I decided to run for re-election because I feel like I have more to contribute to our students, our families and the community. I am excited for the future of the district and we need to bring new energy to old ideas and be flexible to the changes that can, should, and will happen in education.

What’s your vision for the St.Paul School District 30 years from now and advice for the Class of 2049?

In 30+ years I would like to be walking into St Paul Public schools as a grandparent. To share the history of the district, it’s growth, it’s impact on the city; and to celebrate the accomplishments of past graduates from SPPS. I want to hear from the new leaders that graduated to become educators, building engineers, school board members, the Mayor, city council members, the governor, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and to careers in trades. 

I’d like St Paul Public Schools to have Mechanic Arts High School reboot to see the highest enrolled trades high school in MN. The vision of St Paul being innovative in education, creating educational pathways that are student led, community based and fully funded. 

And my advice: I was sitting where you are once. I didn’t think about being a school board member when I was in that chair. I need you to picture yourself being and creating in a role of leadership in your community, and to think about service and how you want to give back. Dream big, work hard, play, take risks, explore, and always be a student, always be willing to be reflective, and never stop learning new things.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

As board member and chair of the BOE these past two years, I have formed trusting relationships with our staff, families and students. I’ve visited all of our 59 different schools, many times. I’ve grown in my knowledge of education and the district, and I’ve used that expertise to help make change that matters.

Zuki LogoExperience counts. Relationships count. There’s still work to be done. I’m still fired up and still have the passion necessary to do the hard work this job requires. I hope to earn your vote because I listen to all our communities, I am an active director, and I am driven by love for and belief in everything our kids can be.


What’s the last book you read?

I read multiple books at the same time. I am reading The White Architects of Black Education by William H. Watkins and Akita Warrior by NNedi Okorafor.

Name one previous teacher/ administrator who left a lasting impact on your life?

My 3rd grade teacher Ms. Laurie is someone who has had a lasting impact on my life. She told me I was smart, she was able to tap into my creative side, and she challenged me to be and do my best. Ms. Laurie always made a tough day so much easier with words of encouragement, a calligraphy pen, and a hug.zukiellis_kickoff_1

Ms. Laurie still checks up on me. Even though she said I could call her by her first name, I won’t do that. Ms. Laurie is still my teacher.

Connect with Zuki’s campaign online at or on Facebook at



Meet the Candidates: Jane Prince for Ward 7

Next up: Council Member Jane Prince for Ward 7! Here are Jane’s answers to our questions:

Why did you decide to run?

I love my East Side community and I love Saint Paul. Having had the opportunity to work in the Mayor Latimer Administration and as a legislative aide to Ward 4 City Councilmember Jay Benanav, I developed a strong belief in the power of local Jane Prince Headshot.012319 government to engage and involve communities in becoming the best they can be. I love that one phone call to my office can reveal an issue or problem that we can solve together. Every call I get from a constituent represents an opportunity to work together on a better Saint Paul.

How do you see your ward 30 years from now?

My ward is among the most multiculturally diverse communities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, and is also young, with a median age of about 30.  I expect that in 30 years, thanks to  our efforts now to develop housing for all, to support economic growth and create good living wage jobs, that we’ll be a thriving destination for people seeking a vibrant and authentic multicultural environment in which to live, work and play.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

I will continue to work hard to reach out to and stand with the constituents of my diverse district to help fulfill the vision of the kind of East Side they want to create together.

What’s the last book you read? 

The last book I read was White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.  I’m now reading Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Hero, by Larry Tye.

Favorite restaurant/ dish in St. Paul or your ward. 

Broccoli and cheese papusas at Manana’s Salvadoran Restaurant & Papuseria, 798 East 7th Street

Tell us a fun fact about your ward.   

Two U.S. Supreme Court justices who served contemporaneously, Warren Burger and Harry Blackmun, both grew up within blocks of each other in Ward 7’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood. They were in the same scout troop, graduated high school together and were in each other’s weddings. Both appointed to the court by Richard Nixon, Justice Burger’s record on the court was a much more conservative one than Justice Blackmun’s who wrote the decision for the court in Roe v. Wade.

Visit Jane’s campaign online at or on Facebook at

Meet the Candidates: Amy Brendmoen for Ward 5

We are really happy to bring you news and information from Council President Amy Brendmoen! Here are her answers to our questions:

Why did you decide to run?

I first ran in 2011 when there was only one woman on the Saint Paul City Council plus a combined 68 years of incumbency among the members. I believed that the perspective of someone who started her life in public housing with a teenage mom and little sister, found her way through college andBrendmoen 4 worked in all three sectors, and then had three little kids in the SPPS would be a welcome and needed addition to this important, local  decision-making body. It turned out that many others believed that too. Today, only 8 years later, I serve as the council President with the first female-majority council in the history of Saint Paul. I am still an energized change-maker now with the experience and chops to make things happen.

How do you see your ward 30 years from now?

Saint Paul is changing and growing at a rapid pace. I think as soon as the 2020 census is completed, we may see dramatic changes in the size, shape and number of wards in the Brendmoen 3city! By 2050, I imagine a clear, healthy Como Lake thanks to the advocacy and efforts of neighbors. I envision a large, thriving community campus on Rice Street that serves a wonderfully diverse community. I picture a near East Side with transit connected neighborhoods. And I see Railroad Island as a thriving downtown neighborhood.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

I am constantly seeking, creating and implementing ways to meaningfully engage community members in governing. Some examples: I have walked with community members over 200 times around Como Lake, listening to their great ideas or concerns and making plans for action. I seek out new leaders from my ward’s diverse, youthful community and help connect them with leadership and growth opportunities. This year I instituted a public input session at the front end of the city’s budget process so folks could meet with their Council Members Brendmoen 1in person to discuss the budget to allow plenty of time for their input to make an impact. These examples are the tip of the iceberg.

What’s the last book you read?

After toting it around for two years, I finally devoured “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond. A must read.

Favorite restaurant/ dish in St. Paul or your ward.

I love to sample menus at our many Ward 5 Thai/Karen/Vietnamese restaurants – everything on their menus is satisfying and delicious. The best modern cuisine in the metro can be found at “Tongue in Cheek” on Payne Ave.

Tell us a fun fact about your ward. 

There are exactly zero coffee shops in Ward 5. Help me change that, all you entrepreneurs!

Amy’s campaign website is: and she is on facebook at:

Meet the Candidates: Mitra Jalali Nelson for Ward 4!

Next up in our DFL Candidate series–Mitra Jalali Nelson, Ward 4 Council Member. We asked Mitra a few questions too. Here are her answers:

Why did you decide to run?

I ran for City Council in 2018 to be a new progressive voice for the future of our city. I’m running for my first full term this year to keep leading change in Mitra 2four key areas: attainable and affordable housing and home ownership, community-first public safety, transportation and sustainability, and building our community wealth. I’m also running to do something much bigger and deeper, which is to change the way our government engages with residents. I believe that no matter how long you’ve lived here or where you call home, you have a stake and a say in the future of our city. In this time of great change and potential for our city’s future, I’m running to keep organizing for progress that brings all of us with it.

How do you see your ward 30 years from now? 

I would love our part of the city, and all of St. Paul, to be a thriving, safe community where everybody has a great place to live, a well-paying job that amply covers the costs Mitra 3of living and gives people something leftover to save or reinvest in our local economy, where our city-funded parks and library systems are even more equitable and accessible to all kids and families, where public transportation is free and equitably built out throughout our city to reduce our dependency on cars, where our imagination around public safety has grown beyond punishment and incarceration to instead support a range of interventions for youth and people struggling with a range of issues, where our elected and community leaders fully reflect the experiences and values of those who live here, and where everyone can fully be who they are.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

I ran for City Council not only to take action on the issues facing our city’s future, but to change the way our city engages with residents. I’ve returned Mitra 4regular office hours to Ward 4 in all our neighborhoods, have pushed for district council reform and resources to ensure these city-funded engagement bodies are more innovative and representative, organized our first-ever Renter Voice Summit and am leading the 2020 Census effort in Ramsey County so that all of us can be counted. I ran to bring everybody to the table, and I’m running again to keep opening up our processes to all.

What’s the last book you read?

I’m currently reading The Green New Deal by Jeremy Rifkin. It lays out the case for a massive rethinking and public investment in our economic and energy infrastructure for both action on climate and a more sustainable world.

Mitra 6

Favorite restaurant/ dish in St. Paul or your ward.

On’s Thai Kitchen off the Snelling stop of the Green Line is the undefeated champion.

Tell us a fun fact about your ward.  

Nearly half of all local St. Paul breweries are located in Ward 4, and we also have the first-ever Ethiopian consulate office, the longtime Eritrean Community Center, historic Korean, African and African-American businesses in the Midway, and so many more unique ‘first’ or ‘historic’ features that tell our diverse city story.  I’m so proud to represent us at City Hall!

Mitra July 4 parade

Visit Mitra’s campaign online at:

Connect with Mitra’s campaign on Facebook at: