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Nasheed says she dropped out because 'didn't want to be a clown' in circus for state Senate seat

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 14, 2009 - State Rep. Jamilah Nasheed said today that her surprise withdrawal from last weekend's Democratic state Senate contest reflected her practical knowledge -- "I didn't have the numbers'' -- and her desire to "take the high road."

But Nasheed added that her absence from Saturday's proceedings  also signaled her lingering anger over a selection process that she believed was flawed.

Nasheed is primarily upset with 1st Ward Democratic Committeewoman Sharon Tyus, an old nemesis, who controlled the deciding votes in Saturday's selection process by the Democratic committeemen and committeewomen in the 18 wards within the 4th state Senate District.

"I knew it was going to be a circus there. I didn't want to be a clown in it,'' Nasheed said. (Tyus has yet to respond to requests for comment.)

Still, Nasheed said she did call the victor, 28th Ward Committeeman Joe Keaveny, on Sunday to congratulate him.

Keaveny now will compete in the Nov. 3 special election called to select a replacement for Democrat Jeff Smith, who resigned from the state Senate when he pleaded guilty to two felony counts stemming from campaign activities during his failed 2004 bid for Congress.

Nasheed was among several Democrats who had been publicly campaigning for weeks to succeed Smith.

Nasheed contends that Tyus improperly handled earlier voting by the committeepeople in eight predominantly African-American wards to settle on a consensus black candidate. Tyus backed lawyer Jerryl Christmas, who lost in the first round of Saturday's balloting.

Nasheed says that she had the support of a majority of the committeepeople in those wards to be the consensus African-American candidate, but that Tyus unfairly tossed out some pro-Nasheed votes.

Even so, Nasheed said she decided against attending Saturday's final selection meeting at Carpenters Hall to continue her battle against Tyus. "I wanted to keep with the spirit of the 'consensus candidate' " and not hurt Christmas' chances, she said.

In any case, Nasheed said she was shocked to learn that -- after Christmas' first-round elimination -- Tyus then threw her votes on Saturday to Keaveny, who had been backed by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

"I never thought that she would have done that,'' Nasheed said.

(The mayor has long been viewed by Tyus as a political enemy. She was the 20th Ward alderman until Slay succeeded years ago in winning aldermanic approval of a redistricting map that moved the 20th Ward across town.)

The result of Tyus' actions on Saturday was a narrow loss for state Rep. Rachel Storch, who also had been campaigning hard for the Senate seat.

Nasheed said she wonders if Tyus sided with Keaveny because she thought Nasheed preferred Storch, a fellow legislator. (That certainly was true of state Rep. Chris Carter, who also is the 27th Ward committeeman.)

Nasheed had told allies Saturday that after opting to skip the selection session,  she went to a movie instead.

So what movie was it?

Actor Tyler Perry's latest, entitled, "I Can Do Bad All By Myself."