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Politically Speaking: Brian Williams on his plans for St. Louis in the Missouri Senate

State Sen.-elect Brian Williams
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
State Sen.-elect Brian Williams

Brian Williams joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippmann to talk about his big win in the 14th Senate District Democratic primary.

Williams will represent the central and north St. Louis-based district once the Legislature reconvenes in 2019. The 14th District includes municipalities such as Clayton, University City, Ferguson, Hazelwood, Northwoods and Bridgeton.

Williams is a Ferguson native who worked many years for Congressman Lacy Clay, D-University City. Among other things, Williams was responsible for communicating with local and state legislative officials on issues that Clay was working on — such as moving the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to north St. Louis.

With Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal departing from the Senate due to term limits, Williams was one of three Democratic candidates who sought to succeed the University City Democrat. The contest was competitive but civil — as there were no reported negative attacks from any of the candidates.

Ultimately, Williams won by less than a thousand votes over former state Rep. Sharon Pace, D-Northwoods. Since there’s no Republican candidate on the ballot, Williams is effectively the senator-elect for the 14th District.

Here’s what Williams had to say during the show:

  • Even though Clay ended up winning his re-election bid by a wide margin, Williams said he couldn’t necessarily count on prevailing due to the congressman’s coattails. “I was grateful that he supported me. But he made it extremely clear from day one: ‘This is a race that you’re going to have to run on your own,’” he said. “And his exact words were, ‘My popularity doesn’t always, or is guaranteed to, transfer over to you.”
  • Williams has said that he plans to work with his Democratic colleagues to fight against some of the GOP’s agenda. But he’s also talked with some Republicans about dealing with vexing issues, including increasing education funding and expanding mental health care. “I think this is simply about having conversations about making the state and region better and not being pigeonholed or gridlocked into divisive ideological politics,” he said.
  • Growing up in Ferguson, Williams recalled being racially profiled as a college student. He said there is more work to be done on a public-policy level to forge better relationships between police and African-Americans.
  • Williams will be the first African-American man to serve in the Senate since Clay, who resigned from the state Legislature in 2000 to move on to Congress. Williams, who noted that his mother and grandmother helped raise him, said, “I’m taking the challenge of someone trying to be visible in the community to where young men of color could understand they can go from being in a kid in Ferguson to representing their community as a state senator.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Brian Williams on Twitter: @BrianWilliamsMO

Music: “This Heart’s On Fire” by Wolf Parade

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.