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St. Louis’ 8th Ward sends Annie Rice to Board of Aldermen in special election

Annie Rice, the independent candidate for 8th Ward Alderwoman
Rice campaign via Facebook
Annie Rice, who ran as an independent candidate, has won a special election to be the alderwoman from the 8th Ward.

Updated Feb. 13 at 10:05 p.m. with quotes from Rice — An immigration attorney who is also a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement will join the Board of Aldermen later this month as the representative of the 8th Ward.

Annie Rice, who ran as an independent candidate, beat the Democratic nominee, Paul Fehler in Tuesday’s special election 60 percent to 40 percent in unofficial results. She will serve the remainder of Steve Conway’s term. Conway resigned in November to become the city’s assessor. Turnout in the ward, which covers parts of the Shaw, Tower Grove East and Southwest Garden neighborhoods, was about 28 percent.

“I’m super-excited, and really grateful for all the support from everybody who pushed me to run,” Rice said. "It takes women 14 times being asked to run, men it takes about three times. It’s important to keep asking women to be involved. This is the start of a good 2018 for us.”

In addition to becoming the 13th woman on the 28-member board, Rice is also the ninth new member elected since April 2017, the largest turnover on the board in decades.

Rice cannot be sworn in until next week at the earliest, but said she’s hoping to officially join the board before lawmakers consider legislation establishing protest buffer zones around abortion providers. A committee will hear testimony on the measure on Wednesday.

“I’m interested in seeing what’s there, and digging in hard to see what’s the next thing to move forward,” Rice said. She said she plans to champion protections for undocumented immigrants, although the Board has limited authority in that area.

Rice will have to give up her post as the Democratic committeewoman from the 8th Ward, as the city charter does not allow any elected official in the city to hold a post with a party committee. And her victory is unlikely to quiet the debate roiling the city Democratic Party over what it means to be a member of the party.

The city charter also does not permit partisan primaries in special elections — central committees pick the nominees. Rice chose to run as an independent after the committee backed Fehler, a move that angered some members of the central committee and may give momentum to an effort to give the central committee the power to discipline members who do not support to party’s nominee.

“I think that it’s a bad reaction for the Democratic Party to try and push people out,” Rice said. “I think that bringing more people in is the way that the Democratic Party moves forward. There’s an energy that comes from having a choice, and that can translate to our statewide seats and our bigger offices if we allow it.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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