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5 things to know about the 8th Ward special election

Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
Both Annie Rice and Paul Fehler are touting their endorsements from Democratic party officials as the race for 8th Ward alderman enters its final days

Voters in St. Louis’ 8th Ward will go to the polls on Tuesday to pick their new alderman. The seat has been vacant since November, when long-time alderman Steve Conway resigned to become the city’s assessor. The ward covers parts of the Shaw, Tower Grove East and the Southwest Garden neighborhoods. 

Two candidates — Democrat Paul Fehler and independent Annie Rice — are vying to fill the rest of Conway’s term. Whoever is elected can run for a full term in 2019. Here are some key things to know about Tuesday’s election.

1. Who are the candidates?

Fehler is a data analyst who has worked with organizations like Forward Through Ferguson and the For the Sake of All report. But he’s probably best-known for producing the movie“The Pruitt-Igoe Myth,” about the infamous north St. Louis housing project.

Rice is an immigration attorney at a small law firm that also does civil rights work. The Board of Aldermen, she said, needs more people who are versed in the law.

2. The ward has been trending more liberal over the last several years.

Conway, the former aldermen, had no opposition when he ran in 2007 and 2011. But in 2015, he beat his challenger, Kevin McKinney, by fewer than 100 votes. And before he resigned, he found himself at odds with his ward on key issues. He backed Lyda Krewson for mayor, but the 8th went resoundingly for Tishaura Jones in the party primary. In addition, Conway supported a half-cent sales tax increase that helped fund raises for police and firefighters. The 8th Ward was one of four wards to vote against the increase.

The ward backed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary.

3. The ward turns out

The 8th Ward consistently ranks among the top in turnout in the city. In the 2016 presidential primary, 57 percent of its residents voted. In the mayoral primary in 2017, turnout was 37 percent. And in the most recent election, for that sales tax increase, turnout was 28 percent.

4. The race is an intra-party spat

Both Fehler and Rice were elected to the city’s Democratic Central Committee in August 2016. They did not campaign directly against each other, but Rice likes to point out that she got 215 more votes in her victory than Fehler did in his. Fehler counters he was outspent in his race.

The city charter does not allow for primaries in special elections, so both Fehler and Rice sought the backing of the central committee to have the D next to their name on the ballot. Its members chose Fehler.  After initially saying she did not plan to, Rice chose to run as an independent. The decision angered some committee members and sparked talk of changing the committee’s bylaws to punish Rice and those who supported her in the race. At least two members of the committee have made financial contributions to Rice’s campaign.

5. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

If you are in line at the polling place at 7 p.m., you will be able to vote.

Voters should bring a government-issued photo ID with them to cast their ballot. Voters who lack a government ID can bring other forms of identification, and will be asked to sign a statement acknowledging that the state can provide an ID for free.


Credit City of St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.