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Politically Speaking: Alderwoman-elect Rice reflects on her big win — and her 8th Ward priorities

Alderwoman-elect Annie Rice
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman-elect Annie Rice

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Jo Mannies and Rachel Lippmann welcome Alderwoman-elect Annie Rice to the show.

Rice defeated 8th Ward Democratic Committeeman Paul Fehler on Tuesday to represent the ward in the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The 8th Ward takes in the Shaw, Southwest Garden, Tower Grove South and Tower Grove East neighborhoods.

Rice is an immigration attorney who was elected in 2016 to be the committeewoman for the 8th Ward. When Alderman Stephen Conway resigned to become the city’s assessor, both Rice and Fehler sought the Democratic nomination for the 8th Ward seat. The St. Louis Democratic Central Committee picked Fehler, but Rice ultimately decided to run as an independent.

Unlike other aldermanic races, Rice and Fehler refrained from engaging in negative attacks against each other. But the candidates’ supporters didn’t take that tack on social media. Some of Rice’s detractors were upset she ran as an independent, even though members of the Democratic Party hold all of the citywide and aldermanic offices. Fehler’s critics tried to paint him as closet conservative, despite, like Rice, endorsing Bernie Sanders for president.

In the end, Rice ended up winning by a wide margin. She’ll be the only “independent” on the Board of Aldermen when she’s sworn in later this month, but she is planning to seek the Democratic nomination when the seat is up next March for a four-year term.

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

  • She’s supportiveof a plan to place a “buffer zone” around Planned Parenthood’s building in the central corridor. Protesters that oppose abortion rights often demonstrate close to that facility.
  • Rice said she’s steadfastly opposed to abid to privatize St. Louis’ airport. Before that issue even reaches the Board of Aldermen though, it’s possible that a board consisting of the mayor, comptroller and Board of Aldermen president could kill the proposal.
  • She believes there could be an effort to repeal a charter amendment reducing the Board of Aldermen from 28 to 14 members.Rice said she’s concerned with how the move will affect African-American representation and political power. “They may still vote for reduction and that’s absolutely their right,” she said, referring to city voers. “But to be presented with the information again in the climate that we’re in, with the Ferguson Commission report and with the understanding of what our region is, would we still make the same decision?”
  • When redistricting happens after the 2020 census, Rice said the Board should strongly consider having an outside organization to draw the aldermanic boundaries. “There is a level of self-interest that comes in when you draw your own lines,” she said. “And I don’t think we’re at the point where there’s enough trust in that body from the people to draw these lines equitably.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Rachel Lippmann: @rlippmann

Follow Annie Rice: @AnnieRiceSTL

Music: “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne & “Who Runs the World (Girls)” by Beyonce

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.