Updated at 7 p.m. with polls closing — Election officials said turnout was light for Tuesday's mayoral and aldermanic primary elections.
Seven Democratic mayoral candidates and three GOP contenders are vying to move on to the April 4 general election. Blame the city’s longest-serving mayor for such a crowded field; Francis Slay chose against running for a fifth term.
The Democratic candidates are Aldermen Lyda Krewson, Antonio French and Jeffrey Boyd; Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed; St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones; St. Louis Public School Board member Bill Haas; and former Alderman Jimmie Matthews. Andy Karandzieff, Andrew Jones and Jim Osher are seeking the Republican nomination.
This could be the decisive contest for mayor, given that city voters tend to lean toward Democrats. Plus, Missouri is an open primary state, which means Republicans can ask for Democratic ballots instead of GOP ballots.
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, turnout was "pretty slow," according to Mary Wheeler-Jones with the Board of Election Commissioners. She was driving around the city and said she saw more people at the polls handing out campaign materials rather than actual voters.
"I guess it's going to be that kind of day," she told St. Louis Public Radio.
By late afternoon, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office had fielded 15 phone calls regarding potential voting problems, according to Susan Ryan, a representative of the office. Two issues were being reviewed by the office; more information would be provided if criminal charges end up being sought, she said.
Other calls were about a broken voting machine and too few ballots.
Earlier in the day, Annie Rice, the 8th Ward Democratic committeewoman, said she hadn't heard of any issues at polling places.
"I haven't seen lines at any of our polling places all day," Rice said of her south-central ward.
The voters who did turn out weighed in on their hopes for this election and the future of the city.
Curtis Terry, 45, voted for French, who is the alderman of the 21st Ward on the city's north side.
“Our city is in some type of turmoil and I think we need some type of change,” Terry said. “And we need to go in a different direction than we have in the last 16 years.”
Terry’s main concern is neighborhood development — “for the whole city, not just the south side of Delmar.”
Sharon Casey was torn between French and Reed, but was leaning toward French — though she said she'd be sad to lose him as her alderman.
“Everybody needs to get together on that crime. And it’s a lot of things the north side needs to do in as far as of housing. And these buildings that are boarded up and all, we need to take that situation," she said.
Sean Burk, 31, who biked to his 9th Ward polling place in the Soulard neighborhood, said he voted for Tishaura Jones.
"I feel like we'll get stuck with someone who I'm less than enthused about, which will kind of mean more of the same that we've had in the city for over the last decade,” said Burk. He's most concerned about police-community relations ... and I don't think that's done a lot of good for a lot of people in the city."
In the Tower Grove South neighborhood, Melinda Thomas walked into her precinct still mulling whether to vote for Jones or Reed. The 47-year-old grew up in north St. Louis, and said she believes crime, education and police-community relations are the big issues.
“We need someone who’s going to represent everyone in this city,” Thomas said.
Candidate Jeffrey Boyd, the alderman for the 22nd Ward in northwest St. Louis, voted at about noon. He said he’d been working polls since before 6 a.m., and believes he benefited from the numerous forums held ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
“I think I’ve been real blessed with all the different forums, that I’ve turned a lot of heads at the forums where people had a chance to see me do the debates and the forums," he said. "They were like ‘Well, you know what, I hadn’t been thinking about you, you weren’t on my radar screen, but you definitely are now.’ So that’s really encouraging."
One of Boyd's supporters, Kenneth McLamb, is a pastor at the social justice ministry Ark of Safety. The 67-year-old in the 22nd Ward said the massive Democratic primary slate left him thinking that the city's leaders "seem to be a little confused."
"Too many candidates running, not enough unity. And what it does, it don’t display unity in the community. So if we had more unity downtown, maybe the rest of the city would follow through,” he said.
In addition to the mayoral race, several aldermen are fending off tough challenges for re-election, plus there are five wards featuring wide-open races because incumbent aldermen aren’t running for another term.
Candace Taylor, 33, lives in the 15th Ward near Tower Grove Park. She was planning to vote for Jennifer Florida for alderman, saying Florida is "probably more active out here, she’s willing to listen to people’s views."
Voters also were to decide whether to approve or reject a ballot item that could impose a $5,000 annual fee on short-term loan businesses — like payday lenders.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum; Ryan: @rpatrickdelaney; Erica: @ehunzinger