If incumbent mayor Francis Slay wins the Democratic primary tomorrow and then goes on to win re-election in April, he will become the longest serving mayor in St. Louis history.
Serving over 12 years in the office, Slay believes there are many reasons he deserves an unprecedented fourth four-year term.
At a recent meet and greet in the 6th ward – his main opponent’s home ward – Slay mingled with potential voters. A lot of the conversations with the 40 or so people gathered were what you would expect – soft ball questions , or praising the mayor for something he’s done – but not all of the questions were like that.
“I have a question," One of the people asked. "What are we doing about the crime in St. Louis? What is the plan, because there is a lot of crime in the city."
Crime has been a recurring issue throughout the race.
“Here’s what I will tell you," Slay responded. "Crime is at the lowest rate since 1972. So it's the lowest rate in the city in 40 years. Violent crime has dropped in half since in 1995, and crime in the city has gone down in St. Louis twice the national average. We’ve made progress but make no mistake about it, crime is unacceptably high in the city.”
Slay talked to the woman for about 7 minutes, answering a few other questions she had.
But he hasn’t only had to rely on in person campaigning. Slay has been able to enjoy a huge fundraising over his two opponents. He’s raised nearly 3 and a half million dollars in this campaign – more than 5 times what his opponents have raised.
It’s allowed him to spend a lot of money to blanket TV and radio stations with ads like this one that touts progress with reducing lead poisoning . It's something Slay has pointed to throughout the campaign, and he told me it’s one of the things he’s most proud of.
“We’ve all but eliminated lead poisoning in children," Slay said. We still have some work to do. Once I took office, 1 out of every 5 children had elevated levels of lead in their blood, now it’s less than 3 percent, so it’s dropped by about 80 percent.”
One of the other changes Slay praised is local control of the police department. It means that beginning in July, the police department will begin to report to the mayor.
“We’re going to have a department now that is more responsive to the needs of the neighborhoods and a police department that’s more accountable to the people of the city of St. Louis,” Slay said.
The campaign comes down to this: Slay’s opponents say “Look at where we are right now. Our crime rate is too high." His response is a common refrain he tags to several of answers: to look at where St. Louis was before 12 years – that there’s still work to be done but progress has been made.
Although Slay has a huge fundraising advantage over Aldermanic President Lewis Reed and former Alderman Jimmie Matthews – who have both had their campaign struggles -- there are still some who maintain this will be Slay’s toughest challenge in years.
But as Slay’s campaign points out, he hasn’t lost a race yet.
Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter: @csmcdaniel