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UPDATED: Whitehead plans to challenge in court her narrow Aug. 3 defeat

Karla May, left, and Hope Whitehead
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Beacon | file photo

State Rep. Hope Whitehead, D-St. Louis, is challenging her narrow defeat in the Aug. 3 primary by Karla May, who was backed by Mayor Francis Slay.

Whitehead has scheduled a news conference at noon today downtown, in front of the Civil Courts building, where she plans to file a lawsuit asserting that city Democratic Party chairman Brian Wahby improperly allowed May to post "challengers" inside the polling locations.

("Challengers" are people allowed by Missouri law to stand in polling places to observe who comes in and takes a ballot. Their general use in primaries is to challenge people who are known Democrats or Republicans who take the opposing party's ballot. But they can also be used to monitor who has come into vote, and who hasn't shown up yet -- information that then can be used by a campaign to make sure known supporters show up to cast ballots.)

Whitehead says she was not allowed to post challengers in the polling places. She contends that May's advantage could have contributed to her 33-vote victory over Whitehead in the 57th state House district. Because no other party has candidates seeking the seat, the Aug. 3 victor is virtually guaranteed to win the November general election.

Wahby declined comment. Under the state law, the city Democratic Central Committee (and its GOP counterpart) send over a list of allowed challengers to the city Election Board.

Whitehead won her first matchup with May in last February's special election to choose a successor to former state Rep. T.D. El-Amin, D-St.Louis, who had to step down after pleading guilty to federal bribery-related charges.

Said Whitehead in a statement sent out late Sunday night: "This is not just about me. I want the constituents of the 57th District to know for certain we have accountability, transparency and integrity in the election process."

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.