© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Clay, Chappelle-Nadal On Opposite Sides, But Still Pleased With Election Results

Rep. Lacy Clay
St. Louis Public Radio
Rep. William Lacy Clay spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this morning about the tragic shooting in Arizona. (St. Louis Public Radio)

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay and state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, both University City Democrats, were on opposing sides during St. Louis County’s battle for county executive.

But you might not guess it from their post-election assessments.

Both are proclaiming victory.

While Clay’s candidate — fellow Democrat Steve Stenger — won on Nov. 4, Chappelle-Nadal is celebrating victory as well, because the Republican she endorsed,  Rick Stream, came close.

“It was a cool win, it was beautiful,’’ said Chappelle-Nadal, who appeared in a TV ad for Stream.

As she sees it, Stenger’s narrow victory by just under 1,800 votes was really a win for Stream and those who backed him. Chappelle-Nadal cites previous wins by outgoing County Executive Charlie Dooley, also a Democrat, who won with much larger edges.

Clay, meanwhile, says he’s not one for “nuance” or probing the fallout of any political divisions over the Stenger-Stream contest.

“I believe in winning elections,’’ the congressman said simply. “That’s what politics is all about.”

Clay was Stenger’s highest-profile African-American backer, and his support may have been crucial because many lower-level African-American officials — including Chappelle-Nadal — either backed Stream or kept silent.

Emphasizing that he long has been wary of County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s oversight of the grand jury probe in the Ferguson police shooting, Clay noted that he was among the first to call for a federal investigation, which also is underway.

That said, Clay has objected to the slogan of the pro-Stream crowd that a vote for Stenger was a vote for McCulloch.

State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City
Credit Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio
Maria Chappelle-Nadal during a recent appearance on St. Louis Public Radio

Stenger, said Clay, is a fellow Democrat who shares his views on a variety of issues.

“I’m looking forward to working with Stenger to help heal the economic and racial divisions’’ that erupted over Ferguson, the congressman said. “I believe that Stenger will be pulling in the same direction as me.”

On a regional level, many Democrats privately said that Clay’s political clout has been heightened by Stenger’s success — especially since so many other Democrats lost, regionally and nationally.

Said Clay: “We pulled out a slender victory. … We were at least able to hold onto the prize of the St. Louis County executive.”

(By the way, Clay is critical of some the national Democratic losses, which he blames in part on some Democratic candidates’ reluctance to promote the economic achievements of President Barack Obama.)

Meanwhile, Chappelle-Nadal remains critical of Stenger, saying that his campaign and allies were “very disrespectful’’ to African-American politicians who backed Stream.

Chappelle-Nadal also sees no political downside over the fact that she endorsed a Republican who lost. She noted that she’s done that before. “What was the fallout before, when I endorsed Mike Gibbons?” she asked, referring to the 2008 GOP nominee for Missouri attorney general.

Gibbons lost to Democrat Chris Koster, who since then has headlined a fundraiser for Chappelle-Nadal.

Chappelle-Nadal had no GOP opposition on Nov. 4, when she was elected to another four-year term in the Missouri Senate.

Some allies already are speculating that she might someday challenge Clay for Congress. Chappelle-Nadal demurred, saying that she’s focusing on her current job. As for Clay, she said simply, “We haven’t talked in  years.”

Clay didn’t mention her or any other African-American Democrat.  But speaking in general, he observed that he wasn't going to discuss any splits within regional Democratic ranks. 

The congressman added, however, “Talk is cheap.”

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.