St. Paul election snapshots

Chauntyll Allen
Courtesy of Chauntyll Allen election campaign New St. Paul School Board member Chauntyll Allen (center) promises to fight for the children

Chauntyll Allen wins school board seat

 “While I was working in schools there were many disparities there,” said Chauntyll Allen, “and I kept offering suggestions and no one was listening. I decided to step up. I thought, if not me, who?” After years of involvement with youth and public education, Allen decided to run for a position on the St. Paul School Board, winning a seat on the board November 5 after receiving over 19,000 votes.

“I haven’t change and am not going to change I’m going to be doing the same thing I been doing I will just be on the inside,” said Allen.

Allen’s identity plays a role in the issues that matter to her. “I have several identities. I am a lesbian, I’m non-binary, I am often perceived as a Black man, and throughout my life I have seen people and family be impacted by crack-cocaine.”

These roles have allowed her to feel like a fit representative for all of the diversity within St. Paul. Allen has also spent considerable time within the St. Paul public school system, first as a student herself, then as a teacher. Allen’s experiences have shaped her perceptions of her native city.

“I was born in raised in St. Paul. I lived through the ‘80s and the onset of mass incarceration. I saw someone die for the first time when I was nine years old, and now people continue to die around me.”

Seeing the cycle of violence and inequality continuing throughout generations, Allen took it upon herself to make a change. “Kids may experience so much trauma, and we need to make sure kids feel safe enough to learn.”

One of her many goals is to create a school-to-success pipeline. “I am sick and tired of seeing our children treated like so much trash and shuttled from school to jail. You know it’s a problem if it even has a name. School to prison pipeline? That’s just got to go,”she said.

 Allen aims to do this by changing the curriculum to include more culturally specific education. She also aims to bring back trade education so that more and more students can find jobs after graduating.

She believes that her role includes being a model for the children within the St. Paul public schools. “If we can’t be cordial at the top, then how do we expect for our kids to behave?” 

Dai Thao retains city council seat

Photo courtesy of Dai Thao's election campaign Dai Thao (center) surrounded by children from Ward 1.

The Ward 1 incumbent, Dai Thao has represented its’ residents for the last two terms. “The work that I have done since 2013 has really pushed this community forward,” he said. “We created a lot of momentum and a lot of progress for this community. We want to continue to build momentum—that’s why I decided to seek my third term.” The ward 1 seat was formerly held by current St Paul mayor Melvin Carter.

Thao was endorsed by the St. Paul DFL earlier this year, which led to Anika Bowie and Liz de la Torre, also candidates in the race, leading a walkout in protest of the endorsement. Despite this criticism, Thao won the race by close to 300 votes.

Thao ran on a platform focused on his achievements. “I ran on being a hard worker, someone who understands public policy, someone who has a history of driving a hard bargain for the people, someone who has a history of working across the neighborhood, across the ward.”

His priorities for Ward 1 include; improving accessibility to affordable housing for residents, empowering youth, advocating for small businesses, and addressing the controversial trash contract controversy.

“I think that as a Person of Color and someone who came here as a political refugee, who grew up poor in public housing, [I am] someone who knows what it’s like to be hungry. I think those experiences help me understand and empathize with the people in my ward.”

Ward 1 is likely the most racially, culturally and economically diverse section of St Paul, it includes Snelling- Hamline,  Frogtown, Summit-University, Lexington-Hamline neighborhoods.

While Thao says his experiences have shaped his ability to understand his constituents, he insists that his actions matter more. “It’s not about identity politics. We are one, one community. How do we stand together and fight through these tough economic times and racial disparities?”

Anika Bowie unsuccessful but undaunted

Courtesy of Anika Bowie election campaign Anika Bowie

In the race against incumbent Dai Thao, Anika Bowie also ran for city council in Ward 1. It was the first election that Bowie had ever taken part in as a candidate.

 “I know people that were losing hope and trust in democracy and local government. I wanted to tie that collaborative spirit back into the community,” she said.

Bowie aimed to do this through her campaign by reaching out to the community. “Every single day, if not every other day, we were door-knocking, talking to people at the parks, talking to people at the coffee shops, at restaurants, and talking to people at community sessions.”

One of the reasons Bowie felt she was fit to be a representative was her knowledge of Ward 1. “Coming up as a young Black girl in St. Paul, [I know] how these policies have impacted my life, and I can see the complexities of Communities of Color who have either migrated to St. Paul or who are trying to navigate a world that they don’t fully have knowledge of.”

Bowie’s main goals revolve around public safety. She remains frustrated by the number of homicides that have taken place in St. Paul since she began running.

Bowie spoke on some of the challenges that she may have faced because of her identity “as a Black woman…there’s already so many different stereotypes. The biggest factor for me was overcoming people’s doubts of being electable.”

Bowie did not allow these potential doubts to stop her. “If people don’t believe in me, I’m not even noticing them, because I believe in myself.”

About Aleezeh Hasan

Aleezeh Hasan is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at ahasan@spokesman-recorder.com.

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