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Rivals seek to settle old scores, or launch new ones, in heated aldermanic contests

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 28, 2013 - St. Louis’ battle for mayor isn’t the only key contest on the March 5 Democratic primary ballot. City voters in 14 odd-numbered wards -- and in the 6th Ward -- will also choose their aldermen for the next four years.

Because St. Louis is overwhelmingly Democratic, many of those wards have no candidates from any other party. So the March 5 victors will have a strong edge -- or, in many cases, a lock -- in the April 2 general election.

The Beacon previously has profiled the battles in the 5th, 6th and 16th wards. This time, we’re looking at several of the city’s nastiest primaries, which are in northern wards – notably the 1st, 3rd, 21st and 27th – where the incumbents are under attack.

In many cases, the chief rival is a longstanding political foe who has tried and failed previously to knock off the officeholder. Those rivalries overshadow the fact that most of the key issues in these ward races are the same: jobs, housing and crime.

1st Ward: Is 3rd time the charm for Troupe-Tyus?

It’s the third time around for incumbent Alderman Charles “Quincy” Troupe and his longtime nemesis, former Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, who lost her old seat in the 20st Ward a decade ago during citywide redistricting.

“She’s still fighting that fight,’’ said Troupe, a former state legislator, who is seeking his third term.

A third candidate also is in the race: fellow Democrat Yolanda Brown.

Tyus, a lawyer who could not be reached for comment, had been an outspoken member of the Board of Aldermen during the late 1990s. She had accused Mayor Francis Slay’s then-new administration in 2001 of being behind the redistricting that shifted her ward across town.

Since then, she has tried twice to oust Troupe.

Troupe blames Tyus for his disappearing campaign signs, but otherwise says he’s campaigning on his record. Troupe says his biggest issues are crime, drugs and jobs.

“I don’t think the police can do enough,’’ said Troupe. “I think the community is going to have to do it. The community, particularly the males, are going to have to take ownership and reclaim the neighborhoods from the ‘young bucks.’  “

He also laments “out-of-wedlock parenting,” statutory rapes and teen pregnancies, which he says have helped destabilize low-income families and neighborhoods.

“The bottom line is: What are the values of black life in this city?” Troupe asked.

Troupe is emphasizing his recent endorsement from U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo. At 76, Troupe says he’s in great physical shape because he’s a vegetarian and is careful about what he eats.

3rd Ward: Bosley, Bell, Hardin Redux

Democrat Freeman Bosley, 79, has been the alderman since 1977 – excluding a four-year period in the late 1980s when he was out of office after running for mayor in 1985.

Two of his rivals – Jeffrey Hardin and Anthony Bell – have challenged Bosley before, and each has come close at least once.

Hardin, who is making his fourth bid to oust Bosley, says he is a home-based business consultant. Hardin almost defeated Bosley in 2005.

Hardin contends that the veteran alderman has been "squandering our resources'' and has focused primarily on helping himself and his allies, not the average 3rd Ward resident.

Bell contends that Bosley has neglected the ward for decades and blasts the “dilapidated housing, crime’’ plaguing its neighborhoods. Bell also asserts that Bosley has failed to be transparent in his aldermanic actions. 

Bosley compares his actions to someone mowing his lawn and repeatedly getting distracted by some other task. “There are so many things that need to be done, but you’ve got to finish something,’’ he said.

Bosley cited various efforts that he’s made over the past 30-plus years to get certain projects in the ward. He points to his latest project to encourage home improvements.

He contends that Bell, Hardin and fourth candidate Maxine Johnson are seeking his job because “most of them think it makes money. It doesn’t."

Johnson has yet to return calls from the Beacon.

Bell successfully won the ward’s Democratic committeeman spot last August, knocking off Bosley’s longtime ally, Johnny Sadler. And Bell is feeling good entering into next Tuesday’s primary. “I’ve got the right amount of votes to beat him,’’ Bell said.

Bosley believes his opponents will proven wrong.

21st Ward: French and Wilson duke it out

Alderman Antonio French is battling Kerry Wilson for another term representing the 21st Ward, which comes as French has been increasingly at odds with Slay’s administration.

French first was elected to the Board of Aldermen in 2009, when he upended incumbent Alderwoman Bennice King. Prior to that, French was a committeeman for the ward that encompasses Kingsway East, O'Fallon, Mark Twain, Penrose and the Greater Ville.  French – who has worked as a political consultant –also ran PubDef.net, an online site that was a preeminent depot for news and videos about St. Louis political culture in the mid-2000s.

“I think we’ve changed the direction of the ward,” French said. “It was an area that was on the decline. And now I think all folks – even folks that look at our ward from the outside – can see that we’ve turned the corner and we’re heading in the direction now. What I’ve felt like in the last four years, we’ve laid the groundwork for really, really big things to happen.”

French pointed to the numerous infrastructural and safety improvements around O’Fallon Park. He said the park now has a running and walking track, a rehabbed boathouse and the “crown jewel” of the O’Fallon Park Recreational Center.

“If you ask me what we’re looking at doing in the next term, we’re going to start reaping some of the benefits from the work in the first four years – especially in the area of utilizing these historic tax credits,”French said.

Wilson spent 20 years as a member of the St. Louis Fire Department. Up until last August, he served as the committeeman for the 21st Ward. French campaigned for Wilson’s opponent – Michael Watson – who won the post in the August primary.

Still, Wilson told the Beacon that he’s not running any type of “revenge” candidacy. He contends that French “sunk his own battleship by some of the things he’s done behind the scenes.”

“I agreed to help the current alderman win the race so it wouldn’t be a three-way that split the vote,” Wilson said. “And with that, the exchange was we expect you to do this and we expect you to be a public servant. Well, he opted to do something different – pretty much turned his back on some people that were instrumental in helping him. So, it’s not really a revenge for me. It’s more like ‘let’s get the right people in there.’”

(French said that he had a non-existent relationship with Wilson.)

If he ousts French, Wilson said he would want to inspire residents to become “small business owners and self-employed” to “create the jobs by creating the jobs.” He would also like to establish an endowment for O’Fallon Park and Fairgrounds Park similar to Forest Park Forever, a public-private partnership that helps pay for improvements at Forest Park.

Wilson said he had “mixed emotions” about cameras that French has helped install throughout the ward, saying that they document incidents -- but may not stop the crime from happening. Instead, Wilson said, he would focus on getting more police officers patrolling the streets.

French, meanwhile, has got into several well publicized spats with Slay’s office.

He quarreled with Room 200 over minority participation in building the O'Fallon Park Rec Center, speed bumps in O'Fallon Park and providing at the rec center low-cost memberships and programs for children. He is also a vocal opponent of proposed a city and county sales tax increase to spruce up area parks and the Gateway Arch grounds, which he said wasn’t a priority for residents of his ward.

French ties that discord to an apparently unsuccessful effort to toss him off the ballot. St. Louis lawyer Brad Kessler last week filed a complaint with the St. Louis Election Board, challenging French's answer on the candidate affidavit that he filed, in which French stated he had no outstanding fees or fines due the city or state.

French has been in the midst of paying off an $8,000 fine that the Missouri Ethics Commission levied against him during a previous campaign. French said that he answered correctly because he was up-to-date on a payment schedule set up with the attorney general's office.

In any case, French said he has paid the remaining $2,000 a few days early -- it was due March 1 -- in order to satisfy the city Election Board. The complaint has been dismissed.

“I’m used to that kind of stuff – its fair game,” French said. “I’ve thrown rocks at the Slay side, so they throw rocks over at me. It’s just part of the game, I guess."

27th Ward: Carter-Boyd contest gets personal

One of the more contentious aldermanic contests is in the 27th Ward, which encompasses Walnut Park, North Point and Baden.

That’s where incumbent Alderman Chris Carter is squaring off against 27th Ward Committeewoman Pamela Boyd. The election comes a few months after former Alderman Greg Carter – Chris Carter’s uncle – died in a truck crash.

Boyd contends that the understanding was that she would eventually replace Greg Carter on the Board of Aldermen, while Chris Carter -- then in the state House -- would eventually run for the state Senate.

“So when Greg passed, Chris decided that wasn’t what he wanted to do,” Boyd said in an interview. “And so I told him I would support him for the remainder of Greg’s position. But I made it real clear to him that I was running to be the aldermanic person for that ward when the election came up in March.”

Carter – who served as a member of the Missouri House before winning a special election to complete his uncle’s term – strongly disputes Boyd’s account. He added that it would make no sense for him to leave a safe Democratic House seat just to fill out a few months of an unexpired term.

“Who would make that deal?” he asks.

In any case, both candidates are running on platforms emphasizing crime prevention and bolstering small business growth within the ward.

In his short tenure as alderman, Carter says he’s led a small group of people cleaning up alleys in the ward. If elected to a full term, he said he would pass legislation making it easier for small businesses. He’d also like to set up community gardens so ward residents could have healthier foods and develop small “think tanks” of residents to solve problems in specific neighborhoods.

“We’re going to basically go back to a grassroots effort of taking our neighborhood back,” Carter said.

Besides embracing the “Neighborhood Ownership Model” to tackle systemic crime, Carter is also pushing to install video cameras in the ward.

“I’m doing partnerships with a few churches and a few key businesses in the city to kind of start it,” Carter said. “Within the next year, we should have a whole camera system up and running, functioning and being utilized.”

Boyd says her experience running the 27th Ward’s meetings, as well as her close working relationship with Greg Carter, would make her a good fit for the aldermanic post. Specifically, she wants to improve the infrastructure and business climate around West Florissant Avenue.

“I want to work real close with that business development association and make sure that they set a tone that they follow rules and regulations,” Boyd said. “And so, that would help the community as a whole. Because it would help with property values, it would help with revenue and it would help with economic development.”

She also said that she would want to expand the Neighborhood Ownership Model, so residents “can take responsibility for their own community.”And above all else, she wants residents to be the driving force behind what she does in office.

“At the end of the day I need the community to sit down at the table to say ‘this is how we want to do it,’” Boyd said. “So they have to give me direction on what will build their neighborhood. And I have to get them out of the box and go to the next level.”

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.