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Coatar wins, Schmid ousted in Tuesday's St. Louis primary

Tuesday's elections will decide who will fill 17 out of 28 seats in the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis lawyer Jack Coatar will be the new alderman for the city’s 7th District, which takes in much of downtown, after winning Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

“I’m humbled by the margin,’’ said Coatar, who snagged just over 57 percent of the vote in a three-way contest.

But Coatar’s sizable victory is arguably overshadowed by the surprise defeat of veteran 20th Ward Alderman Craig Schmid, who lost to Cara Spencer by 90 votes out of 749 votes cast ward-wide.

Spencer had been supported by some of the ward’s prominent business owners, who had been at odds with Schmid over how best to revitalize parts of the ward, notably in the Cherokee Street business district.

"People are looking for a positive message of change, of moving forward,'' said Spencer in an interview. She added that one of her first objectives will be to address the ward's high housing-vacancy rate.

Turnout in the 20th Ward was only 14 percent, but that was still above the 9.6 percent voter turnout citywide.

Schmid appears to have been the only incumbent St. Louis alderman to be ousted Tuesday. But he was almost joined by Alderwoman Dionne Flowers, D-2nd Ward, who won by only five votes.

Tuesday's victories guarantee seats for most

All told, voters chose Democratic aldermanic candidates in 17 of the city’s 28 wards – many of which had competitive primaries. 

Since all the city’s aldermen are Democrats, a primary win usually signals victory in the April general election.

Coatar, for example, faces no opposition in April.  He will succeed former Alderman Phyllis Young, who resigned in December after almost 30 years in office. She had endorsed Coatar, 29, who quit his job with Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce to run for office.

He said in an interview that he plans “to reach out to my two opponents,” Chelsea Merta and Sam Cummings. Coatar said both rivals had good ideas that he hopes to promote when he is sworn in.

In the only citywide primary, Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed won almost 83 percent of the vote to overwhelm challenger Jimmie Matthews.

Meanwhile, in other notable aldermanic primaries:

  • Alderwoman Dionne Flowers, D-2nd Ward, just barely held on to her post, against three fellow Democrats. Flowers, a barber, won by only five votes over runner-up Jasmine Turnage.
  • Alderman Sam Moore, D-4th Ward, easily won re-election, receiving almost 66 percent of the vote against Arneatrice Myers.
  • Alderman Stephen Conway, D-8th Ward, narrowly edged out rival Kevin McKinney. Conway, who has been in office for more than two decades, garnered just over 53 percent of the vote.
  • Alderman Larry Arnowitz, D-12th Ward, collected just under 73 percent of the vote, easily defeating Rafael Hernandez.
  • Alderwoman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, collected 71.5 percent of the vote, defeating rival Beth Braznell.
  • Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, D-22nd Ward, received about 77 percent of the vote, handily overpowering two opponents.
  • Alderman Scott Ogilvie, D-24th Ward, got almost 75 percent in a rematch against former Alderman Tom Bauer.
  • Alderman Frank Williamson, D-26th Ward, received 54.8 percent of the vote, defeating rival Rodney Norman.
  • Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, D-28th Ward, collected about 92 percent of the vote against Bill Haas.

Reporter Rachel Lippmann contributed information for this article.

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