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4 Things To Ponder About Tuesday’s St. Louis Board Of Aldermen Races

Mailers from across the city for the 2019 Board of Aldermen races
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
In all, 39 candidates are running in Tuesday's Democratic and Republican primaries to represent the city's even wards on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

While the race for the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen has dominated the lead-up to the municipal primary, voters in the city's even-numbered wards will also effectively select their representatives on Tuesday. And depending on the results, policy in the city could shift drastically.

Who's running?

There are three open seats this year, in the 18th, 24th and 26th wards. Two incumbents — Tom Oldenburg, D-16th Ward, and Heather Navarro, D-28th Ward, are unopposed in the Democratic primary, as is Michael Hebron, on the Republican side in the 6th Ward. No other Republicans are running. (Odd wards were up in 2017.)

Here are the candidates.

2nd Ward: Incumbent Lisa Middlebrook is running for a full term in the city’s farthest north ward against Thomas Bradley, a barber and youth football coach. Middlebrook won a special election in November 2017 to replace Dionne Flowers, who resigned in August 2017 to become the city’s register, or main record keeper.

4th Ward: Incumbent Sam Moore, who’s been in office since 2007, faces three opponents in a contest to represent one of the poorest and highest-crime wards in the city. Robert Dillard, an activist, is one of three people who sued after being fired by Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler. Leroy Carter has been the 4th Ward Democratic committeeman since 2016 — he replaced Edward McFowland, who has a background in housing development.

6th Ward: Christine Ingrassia is going for a second full term in office in this south-central ward, which covers neighborhoods as varied as Compton Heights and the Clinton-Peabody housing complex. She faces Debra Carnahan, an attorney and the wife of former U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan; rapper and activist Cedric Redmon, who goes by C-Sharp; and Henry Gray, the president of the Gate District East Association.

8th Ward: Annie Rice won an abbreviated term in this ward as an independent in 2018. She’s running for a full term as a Democrat to represent parts of Shaw, Tower Grove East and Southwest Garden. She’s facing a challenge from Emmett Coleman, who’s been active in various neighborhood groups in Shaw.

10th Ward: Incumbent Joe Vollmer didn’t have a challenger in his last three elections. This year, he’s up against Patrick Hickey, a pipefitter and a student at UMSL. The ward also includes parts of North Hampton, Southwest Garden, and Tower Grove South.

12th Ward: Larry Arnowitz ousted the last Republican from the board in 2011 and faced token opposition in 2015. He’s got two opponents this year — Derrick Neuner, an athletic trainer at St. Luke’s Hospital and Cassandra DeClue, the associate office manager for her family’s glass company in Princeton Heights.

14th Ward: Carol Howard has not had an opponent since she took over the seat from Stephen Gregali in 2010. This year, she’s facing Tony Pecinovsky, the president of the Workers' Education Society. The ward includes parts of Dutchtown and Bevo.

18th Ward: Five candidates are vying to fill a seat in this ward, which straddles Delmar north of the Central West End, that’s been represented by a member of the Kennedy family since the late 1960s. Jesse Todd, the ward’s Democratic committeeman for 23 years, has incumbent Terry Kennedy’s endorsement. Also on the ballot are Judith Arnold, an urban planner; the Rev. Darryl Gray, an activist and political organizer; Jeffrey Hill, an activist who also goes by the name Dhoruba Shakur; and social workerElmer Otey.

20th Ward: Cara Spencer started the recent turnover at the board when she knocked off 20-year incumbent Craig Schmid by 90 votes in 2015. This election, she’s facing Sunni Hutton, who is on leave from her post as the community development manager at the Dutchtown South Community Corporation.

22nd Ward: Incumbent Jeffrey Boyd, who’s running for a fifth term, will be second in seniority if he wins re-election. He’s facing a challenge from Tonya Finley-McCaw, who has a long history of political involvement in the 5th Ward where she used to live.

24th Ward: There are five Democrats looking to replace Scott Ogilvie in this ward south of Forest Park. The Democratic committeepeople — Danny Rastogi-Sample, a teacher, and Teri Powers, a psychotherapist and advocate for individuals with mental illness — are both running. So is Bret Narayan, an attorney; Lorie Cavin, who helped organize a 2005 recall of then-alderman Tom Bauer; and Bauer, who wants his old job back.

26th Ward: This seat, on the western edge of the city north of Forest Park, unexpectedly opened up when Frank Williamson resigned and took a job with treasurer Tishaura Jones’ office. Three candidates are hoping to replace him: Leata Price-Land, an event planner; Shameem Clark Hubbard, the ward’s former Democratic committeewoman; and Jake Banton, an architect.


Seniority shakeup?

Change is a recent constant at the Board of Aldermen. Nine new aldermen have taken office since 2017, and at least three more will join them after Tuesday. That means almost half of the 28-member board will have turned over in the last two years. Some long-time aldermen with a lot of institutional knowledge were among those who left.

Before the 2015 elections, eight of the 28 aldermen on the board had been sworn in before 2000. After Tuesday, that number will be down to one — Joe Roddy, D-17th Ward, who took office in 1989. Boyd, who was sworn in in 2003, will be second in seniority. And Spencer may be eligible to chair a committee as a second-term alderman — the selection process is handled by seniority.

Boyd said he welcomes the diversity of opinions that has resulted.

“I think we have a lot of younger aldermen down there. We have more women down there than we’ve had before. And I can appreciate it,” he said.

Dark money?

As the aldermanic campaign comes to a close, a politically active nonprofit is stoking some controversy among candidates.

In late January, Jefferson City attorney Chuck Hatfield help create a 501(c)(4) called the Joseph Wingate Folk Society. That group donated$100,000 to a political action committee called Vote-StL PAC, which subsequently spent money to help Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed and seven aldermanic candidates.

Hatfield’s role in creating the Joseph Folk Society is notable, since he helped write Amendment 1 — a measure known as “Clean Missouri” that was marketed to the state as getting "big money" out of politics. When asked if setting up a nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors clashed with the message of Amendment 1, Hatfield replied: “I’m not in the business of sending any particular messages, so I don’t know the answer to your question.“

“I help people comply with the laws as they exist and change those they don’t like. As you know, the campaign-finance laws are quite nuanced,” Hatfield said. “Clean Missouri made a great deal of progress toward campaign-finance reform.”

Last elections?

It is entirely possible that the results on Tuesday will set the character of the Board of Aldermen for the next three years.

If voters approve Better Together’s proposal to consolidate St. Louis and St. Louis County in November 2020, local elected governments, including the Board of Aldermen, will be frozen as they are. That means new even-ward aldermen elected on Tuesday will serve about four months less than a full term (a new metropolitan council would be sworn in January 2023), and odd-ward aldermen would serve almost two years beyond their usual terms. It would also stop the planned reduction of the board from 28 wards to 14.

Two aldermen opposed to the merger announced an effort Tuesday to recall Mayor Lyda Krewson because she supports the measure.

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