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Coleman says she has resigned as Democratic committeewoman

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 19, 2009 - Former state Sen. Maida Coleman, now an independent running for mayor, acknowledges that she still feels like a Democrat.

"Even when I put on pants, I'm still a woman,'' Coleman said Thursday.

But as of Tuesday, she says she's no longer a Democratic official. That's when Coleman says she sent a certified letter to city Democratic Party chairman Brian Wahby, resigning from her post as 7th Ward Democratic committeewoman.

"It's short and succinct,'' Coleman said. " 'Brian, I resign as 7th Ward committeewoman, effective today.' ''

But Wahby said that as of Thursday night, he had yet to receive the letter. "I'm shocked. She didn't indicate to me that she was planning on it,'' Wahby said. (Later Thursday, Wahby said he found an e-mail from Coleman in which she states she resigned.)

Coleman said she was delivering a copy of the letter Thursday to the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners.

At issue is a city ordinance that stipulates that an independent candidate for office can't be "a member of a political party having a state or city committee..."

Allies of Mayor Francis Slay, a Democrat, have indicated that the matter already has been raised with the election board. The assertion is that allowing Coleman to run as an independent, which she really is a Democrat, could encourage others to do so, in order to avoid primaries.

Coleman's decision to run as an independent came after she initially had planned to run as a Democrat in the March 3 primary. Slay faces at least two Democratic opponents: Irene Smith, a former judge and alderwoman, and Denise Watson-Wesley Coleman.

Coleman was required to turn in at least 500 signatures from registered voters in the city of St. Louis. Unofficial reports from the Election Board indicate that she met that threshhold with the signatures that she turned in Tuesday, at the deadline.

Coleman said Thursday that she was aware of the city ordinance barring independents from being members of political parties, and that's why she also sent the letter Tuesday to Wahby.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.