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Candidate Filing Opens In St. Louis With New Rules And New Precautions

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed (left) on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, filed paperwork to run for mayor. It was the first day that candidates in the city could file to run for mayor, comptroller and aldermen for odd-numbered wards.
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
Monday was the first day that candidates in St. Louis could file to run for mayor, comptroller and to represent of odd-numbered wards on the Board of Aldermen. St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed (left) filed paperwork to run for mayor Monday afternoon.

Municipal election season has officially started in St. Louis.

Candidates for mayor, comptroller and odd-numbered wards at the Board of Aldermen could begin filing the required paperwork to run for office Monday.

The 2021 election will be the first under new rules established by the passage of Proposition D on Nov. 3. The posts are now nonpartisan, and voters can select as many candidates as they want in the March primary, a process known as approval voting. The top two advance to the April general election.

The switch to nonpartisan offices means candidates are required to collect signatures to appear on the ballot — 2% of the votes cast in the 2017 mayoral race. The total number needed ranges from 23 in the 25th Ward, which includes parts of the Dutchtown, Carondelet and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods, to 76 in the 23rd Ward, which includes Lindenwood Park, North Hampton and Southampton. Candidates for mayor and comptroller need 1,170 signatures.

The changes did not deter any incumbent aldermen from seeking reelection — in fact, some said they were contacted by supporters eager to sign and pass petitions. Those challengers who had already established campaign committees also said they still plan to run.

But not everyone was happy about them.

“I think the D stands for something,” said Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, during a debate on the issue in late October. “I’m a Democrat, I stand for my principles.”

Among those filing for mayor were Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, and Board President Lewis Reed, his third attempt at the office. More are expected to follow, including Treasurer Tishaura Jones and Dana Kelly, the owner of downtown restaurant Reign.

Coronavirus and filing

As it has so many other things, the pandemic altered the nature of filing for office. Photos posted by candidates on their Facebook pages showed everyone in masks. Plastic shields separated the candidates from elections officials, and large tubs of hand sanitizer were prevalent.

COVID-19 also kept Kelly from filing on Monday as planned. She said in a statement that she was “in quarantine working to get myself healthy after being diagnosed with pneumonia November 13th and with COVID on November 18th.” Kelly said she plans to file as soon as it's safe for her to do so.

Filing closes Jan. 4, and the primary is March 2. With Proposition D’s passage, the April 6 general election will be relevant again. Before, whoever won the Democratic primary was likely to be elected because most voters in the city are Democrats.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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