ST. PAUL, Minn. – After Tuesday's primary election battle for the mayor's seat in St. Paul, Minn., the list of eight candidates will be whittled down to two. But the two top vote-getting candidates could very well be opponents from the same party.
Democratic Mayor Randy Kelly (search) has the advantage of being an incumbent, but has taken heat from his party for alleged disloyal behavior, including his endorsement of President Bush (search) in last year's election. That has left an opportunity for Democratic City Councilman Chris Coleman to win big, local election watchers say.
"There was a very strong reaction to that endorsement, and it obviously is going to ... play out in the mayoral election this year," said Stu Alger, St. Paul Democratic Party chairman.
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Some political observers, including Coleman, say the election has national implications.
"I think people do see this as kind of a continuation of that battle over which direction this country is going to go in," Coleman said.
Political science professor Larry Jacobs of the University of Minnesota said the race is being closely scrutinized because of the impact it could have on the state's role in the 2008 races.
"What we're seeing is the Democratic and Republican national leadership lining up behind opposing candidates as the first step in trying to get an advantage to win Minnesota for the presidential election," Jacobs said.
Minnesota is traditionally a swing state in presidential elections.
Without backing from the local Democratic parties, Kelly is running with endorsements from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (search), a Republican, and long-time Chicago Democratic Mayor Richard Daley.
"You need to be able to work with anyone to advance your city's best interests," Kelly said.
Coleman said the problem with his opponent is that he has drawn wide Republican support.
"This is a mayor that has clearly drawn support from not only the Republican side ... but the very conservative Republican side of the equation," Coleman said.
Coleman isn't entering Tuesday's contest without his own national backing. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, endorsed Coleman and is expected to stump with the candidate before November's general election.
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