Four Maplewood council candidates advance to general election

Tou Xiong comes in at top

A precursor to the general election this fall, Maplewood's primary election took place on Tuesday, Aug. 11.

Only 8 percent of the city's registered voters cast a ballot. But the results will give voters plenty to mull over as everyone gears up for Nov. 3. 

Tou Xiong took the lead with 1,077 votes (34 percent). He'll be advancing to the general election along with Bryan Smith (721 votes, 23 percent), Bob Cardinal (654 votes, 21 percent), and Diana Longrie (412 votes, 13 percent). Coming in last, Paul Babin (272 votes, 9 percent) is no longer in the running.

Xiong's lead in the primary -- securing more votes than former Maplewood mayor and current council member Cardinal and former Maplewood mayor Longrie combined -- should make for a competitive campaign season as candidates vie for two open seats on the city council.

Campaign financing

Although city council elections are held to non-partisan standards, Maplewood's director of citizen services, Karen Haag, says the voting populace has become more party-driven over the course of the past 10 years or so.

"We are seeing that candidates are aligning themselves with party politics," she told the Review.

With that comes a marked increase in campaign financing. Candidates used to raise $800 to $1,200 for primary elections, Haag said, adding most of that came from their own pocketbook.

"It's not uncommon now for candidates to raise $10,000 from outside sources," she said.  

According to campaign finance reports each candidate filed with the city, pursuant to state statute, Xiong raised the most at $13,294. A breakdown of each contribution shows that more than 40 individuals, along with area organizations and businesses, donated more than $100.

A number of leaders in the Hmong community are financially backing Xiong, including St. Paul's first elected Hmong-American City Council member Dia Thao, and Minnesota Senator Foung Hawj, the state Legislature's third elected Hmong lawmaker.

That being said, Haag can't say with certainty whether or not his rise to popularity is being driven by changing demographics. 

"When Obama was on the ballot, we saw in incredible amount of our African American residents register to vote. What we saw here with Tou Xiong was that we didn't really have a significant change in the amount of voters," she said, noting the city only registered 59 new voters.

This either means his voter base is diverse or Maplewood's Hmong population was already politically active prior to Xiong's name going on the ballot, she said. 

Leading up to the primary election, Xiong spent $9,903 on campaign efforts, including printing materials, buying postage, feeding volunteers and holding events. 

Smith raised $6,113 in campaign financing, with 11 donations of $100 or more. And he spent $4,208 on postage, office supplies, website, advertising, door knocking supplies, photography, data services, events and food for volunteers.

Cardinal filed $50 in campaign financing and only spent $5 on his filing fee to enter as a candidate.

Longrie received $507, which she spent on her filing fee, mail items and signs.

Refining the primary

While it's typical to see an 8 percent turnout at a primary election, Haag said, running a primary election doesn't come cheap.

This year, the city spent approximately $37,000 to ensure Aug. 11 voting went off without a hitch. That's roughly $21.93 in expenditures for each voter who shows up at the polls or sends in an absentee ballot.

Given the change in state law that now allows voters to vote absentee without stating a reason for doing so, Haag said the city saw its number of absentee voters nearly double.

This added a bit to costs incurred by the city, but that's not what Maplewood is most concerned about.

Rather, it's concerned about candidates tossing in an affidavit for candidacy for a $5 filing fee even if they may not be that serious about running.

To help ensure that all candidates who enter the race are invested in more than seeing their name on a ballot, Haag says the city will be exploring the option to increase the filing fee for future elections -- an option made possible by a recent state legislative change.

The only change voters can expect to see at the Nov. 3 elections is new voting equipment, purchased by Ramsey County.

Haag said the city will hold mock elections with the new equipment, beforehand, so voters can get more comfortable with the new system. 

All Maplewood election results are available online at or on the Ramsey County web site, The general election is Nov. 3.

Erin Hinrichs can be reached at 651-748-7814 and Follow her at


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