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Slay wields large financial advantage for final week, while Reed counters with policy proposals

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 26, 2013 - With a week left to go, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay still has $530,000 left to spend in his bid for an unprecedented fourth four-year term.

His chief Democratic rival in the March 5 primary -- Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed – has less than one-fifth as much.

But money, both sides agree, is only the part of the story as the duo and fellow Democrat Jimmie Matthews head into the final stretch.

Slay and Matthews filed their last major campaign-finance reports on Monday. They show Slay maintaining the huge fiscal – and spending -- edge that he has held all along.

All told, Slay has raised $3.36 million and spent $3.02 million, including almost $478,891 spent just within the past month.

Reed, meanwhile, has raised $626,439 overall, spent $483,282 and reports $97,451 left in the bank. He also has a debt of $26,741.

Matthews’ report states that he has not raised or spent more than $500.

Slay’s latest spending shows a shift from TV and radio ads – where he spent most of his money in January – to field operations. Most of the $478,891 that he has spent in the last month has gone for a huge number of staff and related expenses. He did, however, spend $175,000 on TV ad time.

Slay’s latest major donors include $20,000 from prominent San Francisco businessman Gregory Wendt, a major political donor and philanthropist, and $10,000 from Southwestern Bell/AT&T. Earlier, the Beacon reported that the mayor also collected several other big donations this month, including $10,000 from the Cardinals baseball team.

Meanwhile, Reed’s largest donor is Robert Romanik of Belleville, who has given him a total of $40,000, including $10,000 in the last couple days apparently not included in his report. Romanick is the former police chief in Washington Park, Ill., and a businessman who's been involved in strip clubs and radio.

Reed also collected $10,000 from the Carpenters Union’s political fund.

Reed’s report shows that he is spending money on radio ads and mailers but no TV ads. Campaign manager Glenn Burleigh says that Reed likely will run a few TV ads for a few days right before the election.

Burleigh said that Reed never sought to match Slay's TV presence: “This campaign has been boots and shoe leather the entire time.”

The two campaigns' focus on field staff reflects, in part, the low-turnout nature of primaries St. Louis Democratic elections director Mary Wheeler-Jones said that about 2,700 absentee ballots have been cast so far, which she said was typical for a March mayoral primary in St. Louis.

Policy statements replace joint appearances

On Tuesday, Reed announced that he had been endorsed by Pearlie Evans, the retired district director for former U.S. Rep. William L. Clay Sr., D-St. Louis. She praised Reed in a statement as "the kind of leader who shares my vision for moving this city forward,”

However, Clay and his son, the current U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, have endorsed Slay. The younger Clay also has appeared in radio ads and fliers that laud Slay.

The congressman has told the Beacon that he is deploying his campaign operation on the mayor's behalf.

Meanwhile, Reed has tried to make up for the lack of ads by issuing a series of policy statements – three in just little over a week.

On Monday, he announced that he would “create a youth mental health task force within the Health and Human Services Department” as an effort to “redirect a child from an early path of criminal tendencies.”

Last week, he laid out plans for re-assessing the staffing at the St. Louis police department, which comes under city control as of July 1. Reed has also proposed setting up a city “linked deposit” program, similar to the one operated by the Missouri treasurer, that would direct low-interest loans to small businesses within the city.

Burleigh said that Reed may issue more policy reports during this final week of campaigning.

That approach differences with Reed’s previous campaign strategy, which had largely focused on attacking the mayor’s record on a variety of fronts, including city contracts and labor relations. Burleigh said the campaign believed that it first needed go after Slay’s record before laying out Reed’s proposals.

Reed's position papers have yet to be posted on his campaign web site.

Consequently, Reed didn’t focus on his proposals during the few joint forums involving the candidates, and it’s likely that the duo won’t meet up during the final week of campaigning.

Both men had forum schedules this week that don’t appear to overlap. In other words, Reed and Slay aren’t likely to be in the same place at the same time.

(Update) Organizers had hoped that both would participate in a forum Wednesday at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park. However, Slay's campaign already had him scheduled to appear at other events, a spokesman said.

The format of the community college forum also had changed to a town meeting, which prompted the local chapter of the League of Women Voters to drop out as the scheduled moderator. (End update)

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.