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Politically Speaking: Bruce Franks on what his resounding victory means for St. Louis politics

File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Jo Mannies and Rachel Lippmann welcome Bruce Franks to show. The St. Louis Democrat won a landslide victory last week in a special primary election over state Rep. Penny Hubbard. He will have a Republican opponent, Eric Shelquist,  in November.

Franks is a south St. Louis native who gained notoriety for his anti-violence activism, Ferguson protesting and even his battle rapping. Earlier this year, the small business owner filed to run against Hubbard in the 78th District – which stretches from Carr Square to Dutchtown in the eastern part of the city.

When the dust cleared on Aug. 2, Franks fell about 90 votes short of besting Hubbard. But Franks went to court to challenge the results, pointing to problems with how absentee ballots were administered in the contest. Before a judge ordered a Sept. 16 election, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch detailed allegations of numerous absentee ballot irregularities that occurred before the initial primary.

Franks already had substantial support among activists that supported former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders, a group of people that formed an organization called Mobilize Missouri . That coalition expanded before the special election to include established political figures, such as state Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis, Alderman Antonio French, D-21st Ward, and state Rep.-elect Fred Wessels, D-St. Louis. This provided him with valuable and knowledgeable boots on the ground to get Franks’ supporters out last Friday.

Ultimately, Franks won the special election by more than 50 percentage points. Since the 78th District is heavily Democratic, he is heavily favored to win in November.

Bruce Franks poses for a picture with his son, King Franks, and his daughter, Brooke Franks. Both of Franks' children made cameos on the Politically Speaking podcast.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Bruce Franks poses for a picture with his son, King, and his daughter, Brooke. Both of Franks' children made cameos on the Politically Speaking podcast.

Here’s what Franks had to say during the show:

  • Franks says Michael Brown's shooting death had a profound impact on his life — and his activism. "I've always been a protector and a fighter," Franks said. "I was always willing to die for my family, my close friends. Mike Brown taught me that I was willing to die for what I believe in. And what I believed in was racial equality. What I believed in was fighting against social injustices across the board. And that included sometimes fighting and maybe dying for people you don't really know."
  • Franks said that there doesn't have to be a binary choice between supporting law enforcement and wanting to change the criminal justice system. The Riverfront Times documented how Franks built relationships with St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson.
  • Because he live in a part of the 78th District (the 9th Ward) where Hubbard didn't have particularly robust political support, Franks thought he was in an advantageous political position before the Aug. 2 primary. 
  • Franks says he's not happy that U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, involved himself in the run up to the special election. Clay wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressing concern about the logistics of the special election. "I thought it was ridiculous," he said. "The fact that our congressman went through such great lengths to discredit what people in the community, his actual constituents, had went through simply to save a friend, simply to be loyal to corruption was an extreme issue with me."
  • He said he's met with state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat who is a major ally of Clay and Penny Hubbard. Franks said that while they may not agree on every issue, he expects to see a good working relationship. "We got to have that real conversation," he said. "Because the only way you're going to know about me is if you sit down and truly talk to me. And I can tell you everything you need to know."

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Bruce Franks on Twitter: @brucefranksjr

Music: “Change Up” by Miistro Freeyo

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
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.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.