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Nasheed challenges incumbent Jones for state Senate

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 3, 2012 - As expected, state Rep. Jamila Nasheed, D-St. Louis, announced today that she is challenging a fellow Democrat, state Sen. Robin Wright Jones, D-St. Louis, in the August primary.

At a news conference today, Nasheed said, "St. Louis deserves better."

She accused Jones of being "silent and ineffective" on a number of issues important to St. Louis. She contended that Jones had failed to fight for the local control bill that Nasheed had pushed through the state House. The measure -- which would have given the city of St. Louis control of its police department -- died in the state Senate.

Jones, said Nasheed, "dropped the ball."

"I have decided to run for the Senate because our city has suffered from the silence and ineffectiveness of the current officeholder," Nasheed said.

Nasheed said that, if elected, she'd strive to fit the mold of the late state Sen. Paula Carter, D-St. Louis, who was known for her take-no-prisoners style.

Nasheed said she has gotten four key pieces of legislation throught the state House, which she asserted is more than Jones did in the state Senate.

As an example, Nasheed cited her success in obtaining passage of an expansion of Missouri's A-plus scholarship program that targets community colleges, to include technical schools like Ranken Technical Center -- where today's news conference was held.

Nasheed acknowledged that Gov. Jay Nixon, a fellow Democrat, withheld the added money for budgetary reasons. She asserted that Jones should have spoken out against the governor's action, but instead chose to keep silent.

Nasheed also acknowledged that she hasn't always been on the best of terms with Nixon. Most notably, Nasheed was among four Democrats in the House who broke ranks to aid Republicans who succeeded in overriding Nixon's veto of a congressional redistricting map that, in effect, did away with the district of U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis.

Nasheed reaffirmed her longstanding stance that she believed the new map -- now being challenged in court -- offered the best boundaries for U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, in whose district she resides.

"You will hear that Jamilah Nasheed works too closely with Republicans,'' she said. "I won't shy away from my Republican friends. ... I know not to go too far to the left or too far to the right."

Nasheed said that she won't focus on Jones' recent problems with campaign-finance issues, including allegations that she used campaign for personal expenses. However, later, Nasheed predicted that her next campaign report -- due Jan. 15 -- will show her with far more in the bank than Jones.

"Nobody wants to give money to her,'' Nasheed said. "They're afraid she'll spend it on shoes."

Jones has yet to comment. Nasheed also might face a challenge from fellow state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis, who is contemplating her own bid for the Senate seat. Nasheed said she had a stronger legislative record than Oxford.

Nasheed's supporters include Alderman Antonio French, D-21st Ward, who introduced Nasheed at today's news conference. Also attending was lawyer and civil rights activist Eric Vickers, who said afterward that Nasheed will provide stronger leadership.

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.