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Wright-Jones sues Nasheed to knock her out of 5th District state Senate contest

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 28, 2012 - Oral arguments have been set for May 10, as a result of this morning's hearing before Judge Steven Ohmer. The judge assigned to hear the case is Judge Joan Moriarty.

State Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, has hired lawyers David Roland and Eric Vickers, to defend her against the suit filed by state Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis. Former state Rep. Elbert Walton Jr. is Wright-Jones' attorney.

As the Beacon reported earlier:

A hearing is set for Monday morning in St. Louis circuit court for state Sen. Robin Wright-Jones’ suit to knock off the Aug. 7 Democratic primary ballot one of her rivals: state Rep. Jamilah Nasheed.

Jones’ lawyer, former state Rep. Elbert Walton Jr., contends that Nasheed doesn’t reside in the newly drawn 5th District and, therefore, can’t seek the post. Nasheed says the state constitution and a 1984 attorney general’s decision make clear that she can.

Nasheed cites the constitution’s Article III, Section 6: “Each senator shall be 30 years of age, and next before the day of his election shall have been a qualified voter of the state for three years and a resident of the district which he is chosen to represent for one year, if such district shall have been so long established, and if not, then of the district or districts from which the same shall have been taken.”

Nasheed resides in the neighboring 4th District and notes that part of the current 4th was shifted into the new 5th. Therefore, she said, she can run in the 5th.

Replied Walton: “My contention is that you have to reside in the district you run in.” He says the constitution simply allows residency to be less than a year in the district, if redistricting has taken place.

The boundaries for all 34 of Missouri’s state Senate seats were redrawn earlier this year as a result of the 2010 census.

Nasheed and another St. Louis Democrat, state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, are each seeking to oust Wright-Jones, who is running for re-election. The most recent campaign-finance reports showed Nasheed with far more cash in the bank: $36,412 compared to Oxford’s $21,345 and Jones’ stunningly small $12.30.

Nasheed declined to comment about the campaign-finance differences, saying only that she was “surprised” by the suit, first reported by Missouri Lawyers Weekly.

Nasheed added that she is confident she will prevail – in court and at the ballot box. “I plan to run a spirited campaign,” Nasheed said.

Wright-Jones filed suit several years ago in a successful attempt to knock off the ballot another legislator, then-state Rep. Connie Johnson, D-St. Louis.

Walton said he hadn’t yet looked into the question of whether Oxford already resides in the new 5th.  If she does not, he said he’ll seek to sue her as well.

Walton already is suing state Rep. Sylvester Taylor, D-Berkeley, on similar grounds. Walton represents Taylor’s rival, state Rep. Rochelle Walton Gray – who happens to be Elbert Walton’s daughter.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.