© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Missouri House District 84 race highlights Dems' identity crisis

Democrats Brad Bakker, at left, and Wiley Price IV, right, seek to replace Missouri House Rep. Karla May in District 84.
Jon Saucier Photography, Wiley Price IV via Facebook

In Missouri’s 84th House district two Democrats are competing for Karla May’s term-limited seat as she makes a bid for the state Senate.

Brad Bakker, an attorney, came to St. Louis to attend Saint Louis University; he left to get his law degree before returning to St. Louis with his family several years ago. Wiley Price IV, an events management director, is a lifelong resident of the 84th district, which includes the Forest Park, the Central West End, Dogtown, Wellls-Goodfellow and Hamilton Heights neigborhoods.

While both campaigns focus on public safety, Bakker’s pivots to criminal justice reform, where Price turns to increasing educational opportunities.

Bakker says he was inspired to run, “after 2016 happened that November it seemed like every institution and value that I hold dear was really under attack.”

Price, who was heavily involved in both the Ferguson and Stockley protests, said he realized he needed to run when he was protesting and knew he couldn’t spend another night in jail because he needed to take his daughter to school in the morning.

“I’m just wanting to be proactive and not reactive anymore," Price said. "And I feel like legislation is proactive.”

The two candidates represent the chasm within the Democratic Party. Bakker, who has more traditional experience as an attorney with the criminal justice system he’s aiming to reform; Price is the activist and outsider to establishment politics and political systems.

The race showcases the Democratic Party’s identity crisis between more establishment candidates with social justice platforms versus activist candidates with social justice platforms and less money.

In the era of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s recent victory over Rep. Joe Crowley in New York, where activism and outsider politics energizes and political pedigree and experience are no longer guarantors of victory, the fate of the 84th district becomes much less certain.

In July quarterly filings, Bakker reported having near $43,000 on hand, while Price had slightly less than $5,000.


Beyond the ideological issues at stake for Democrats in the district, there’s the issue of race. Statistical Atlas reports that 62 percent of residents in the 84th district are black, 31 percent white, 2.8 percent Asian, and 2 percent Hispanic.

Price, who is black, says it would be best for a majority black district to have black representation.

When asked about what representing a majority black district would mean, Bakker, who is white, responded: “I’ve made sure to do the outreach that is needed and I think very important. I’ve sat down and spoken with many African-American clergy leaders that have their ear to the ground, who understand the needs of their parishioners.”

Whichever candidate wins the Aug. 7 primary, will likely win the seat in November as no Republican has filed to run.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported there are no legislative districts that have a white majority and black representation.

Follow Abigail on Twitter: @AbigailCensky

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.