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Pihl squeaks by Gras for place on April St. Louis Board of Aldermen ballot

Jimmy Pheiffer, 69, votes in the aldermanic primary on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at Mann Elementary School in Tower Grove South.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Jimmy Pheiffer, 69, votes in the St. Louis aldermanic primary on Tuesday at Mann Elementary School in Tower Grove South.

Updated at 5 p.m. March 10 with new unofficial results

One of the biggest proponents for equitable development in St. Louis has earned the right to run for reelection to the Board of Aldermen.

Tina Pihl, who currently represents the 17th Ward, and fellow incumbent Michael Gras, currently of the 28th Ward, were tied for second place following Tuesday’s primary, with 868 votes each. Both were well behind Michael Browning, a grants specialist at Washington University.

Ben Borgmeyer, the Democratic elections director, said Friday that Pihl picked up seven votes from provisional ballots and one from an absentee ballot that had not been counted on Tuesday. Browning also picked up three provisional ballots; the city’s approval voting system means voters could select as many candidates as they liked.

Provisional ballots are cast when elections judges are unable to establish that someone is eligible to vote on Election Day.

The results are still unofficial – the Board of Election Commissioners will meet sometime next week to certify the result. Because of the narrow margin, Gras could request a recount under state law.

Gras, an attorney and the former Democratic committeeman of the old 28th Ward, was first elected to the board in April 2022. He replaced Heather Navarro, who resigned to take a position with Washington University.

Our original story

Tuesday’s primary election ended a political dynasty in the city — for now.

Brandon Bosley, the son of a former alderman and brother of a former mayor, was one of four members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen who lost their bids for election to a newly constituted board of 14. He was one of four candidates running to represent the new 14th Ward. The top two vote-getters in each race advance to the general election in April.

In addition to Bosley, incumbents James Page and Lisa Middlebrook failed to advance to the April general election. Page was also running in the new 14th Ward; Middlebrook was one of three alderwomen drawn together into the new 13th Ward.

But the exact lineup for the April ballot remained unknown Tuesday night, as two current aldermen running in the 9th Ward — Tina Pihl and Michael Gras — each received 868 votes for the second spot in that race. Military and provisional ballots will be needed to determine the final results.

Two past aldermen — Kenneth Ortmann and Jennifer Florida — earned the right to try to earn back that title, though in wards much changed since the last time they ran. And state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, will try to swap a seat in Jefferson City for one in City Hall from the new 14th Ward. He was the one to knock Bosley out of the runoff, edging him by just 60 votes.

In the new 4th Ward, just 35 votes separated the two incumbents — Aldermen Bret Narayan and Joe Vaccaro. Both advanced to the April general. And Sharon Tyus, the long-serving alderwoman from the current 1st Ward, topped a crowded field for the 12th Ward with nearly 63%.

Voters could select as many candidates as they wish in the primary under a method known as approval voting. In every contested race, at least some voters picked both candidates.


The departing alders

Bosley was first elected to succeed his father, Freeman Bosley Sr., in 2017. His mother, Lucinda Fraizer, and sister LaKeySha are also political figures. Fraizer has been the Democratic committeewoman of the 3rd Ward for years, and LaKeySha Bosley is a Democratic state representative.

Page was elected alderman in 2021 with the support of several progressive activists. But he occasionally tacked to the right of his colleagues, including his opposition to legislation that would have established an organized encampment for homeless individuals in the city.

Middlebrook joined the board in 2017 to replace Dionne Flowers, whom then-Mayor Lyda Krewson appointed the city’s register, or top record-keeper. Her father, Larry, is the Democratic committeeman from the former 2nd Ward. She was a key supporter of a project known as Lighthouse Pointe, a marina and entertainment district near the Chain of Rocks bridge.

Progressive endorsements

Both Mayor Tishaura Jones and Board President Megan Green had good nights politically on Tuesday.

Green on Election Day campaigned for four candidates, all of whom advanced to the general. Jones publicly endorsed six candidates, five of whom advanced. The one who did not, Shedrick Kelly, was challenging Cara Spencer, who lost the 2021 mayoral race to Jones.

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

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