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City Democrats set date - Sept. 12 - to pick Smith's replacement

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 4, 2009 - The political showdown to select a city Democratic replacement to former state Sen. Jeff Smith is set for 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Carpenters Hall on south Hampton.

The action will center on the 36 Democratic committeemen and committeewomen from the 18 city wards who are charged with choosing a 4th District state Senate nominee for the Nov. 3 special election, where voters will pick a successor to Smith, who resigned last week when he pleaded guilty to felony charges.

But since the city of St. Louis is largely Democratic, the Sept. 12 choice will likely be the voters' Nov. 3 choice as well.

Scheduling that meeting -- which was done by a bloc of committeepeople in the 4th District -- was among many acts in the last 24 hours that demonstrate the frenzied activity underway among Democrats in the city of St. Louis.

Among the other developments:

-- State Rep. T.D. El-Amin, D-St. Louis, dropped out Thursday night as a contender.

El-Amin gave no explanation or details when he delivered the news to about a dozen committeemen and women from eight predominately African-American wards who had gathered Thursday night to hear from all the African-American candidates. El-Amin's appearance was brief, one attendee said.

The upshot: his departure appears to help state Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, who is lobbying to get the support of all the African-American committeepeople. Lawyer Jerryl Christmas, who also is African-American, is continuing to make calls, city activists say.

--The city's Democratic Central Committee acted this morning to approve the decision of newly appointed 1st Ward committeewoman Sharon Tyus to name her husband, Sterling Miller, as the new ward committeeman. The 1st Ward is among those involved in the post-Smith selection.

That action, in effect, dismisses the written complaint of the 1st Ward alderman, Quincy Troupe (who once was the 1st Ward committeeman) that Tyus was illegally appointed by the former 1st Ward committeeman, T. D. El-Amin, before he resigned because he and his wife -- former 1st Ward committeewoman Yaphett El-Amin -- had moved to the 26th Ward. (Got that?)

City Democratic chairman Brian Wahby confirmed that he received Troupe's letter (written on aldermanic letterhead, which is raising some political eyebrows) late Thursday.

All Wahby would say today is that Sterling Miller has been granted "all the rights, privileges and duties'' of the 1st Ward committeeman slot. But OKing Miller means that his wife -- and appointer -- is OK too.

(For those interesting in city history: The Tyus-Miller duo used to hold the clout in the 20st Ward, before allies of Mayor Francis Slay got the 20st moved across town a few years ago during redistricting.)

-- As the Beacon reported Thursday, Slay has made his preference known: 28th Ward committeeman Joe Keaveny. That puts pressure on the other West End candidate, state Rep. Rachel Storch. Since both are white, their contest with Nasheed/Christmas  adds to the racial angle that often permeates city Democratic contests.

-- The city Democratic Central Committee is seeking to professionalize its operations. For the first time ever, says Wahby, it has hired an executive director to actually run things -- and get city Democrats ready for the 2010 elections.

The choice: Jack Coatar, president of the St. Louis University Young Democrats and former regional field director for now-President Barack Obama's campaign last year.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.