On the Trail

Bill Greenblatt, UPI

It’s an open question whether the Ferguson Commission will produce ground-breaking changes or a report that gathers dust on a shelf. 

But it’s indisputable that a lot of people wanted to be on the 16-person commission. According to a spreadsheet released by Gov. Jay Nixon’s office, more than 300 people from all corners of the state applied. 

Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, is leading a study for Better Together about how the region's policing agencies should be structured.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

When Better Together formed last year, it was already planning to examine how the region polices itself — especially because St. Louis County has so many different departments that patrol towns and cities.

But the review became more than just a theoretical exercise after the shooting death of Michael Brown. The roughly 60 police departments throughout St. Louis County underwent intense scrutiny for aggressive ticketing, little racial diversity and the targeting of African Americans. There have been widespread calls for substantial changes.

Missouri Republican Party Chairman Ed Martin, left, lost elections for Congress and for attorney general. While those experiences can be instructive, he says losing sometimes "just plain stinks."
Courtesy of Ed Martin's Facebook page

When Ed Martin sent out an e-mail last week with the phrase “You’re A Loser” in the subject line, this writer thought the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party was being unneighborly.

In actuality, Martin – who, for full disclosure, lives in the same St. Louis neighborhood as I do – penned a  letter on how it feels to lose an election. Even though his party experienced a very successful mid-term election cycle, Martin wrote that not every Republican candidate is basking in the glow of victory -- and they probably aren't feeling that great right now.

Rebecca Smith, St. Louis Public Radio

The 2014 mid-term election is over, but its impact on local and state politics could be long lasting.

That’s because Republicans  -- who were already in firm control of the Missouri General Assembly – expanded their numbers in the House and Senate in part because they were able to crack the Democrats'  once-sturdy strongholds in Jefferson County, southeast Missouri and northeast Missouri. In St. Louis County, Republicans also came close to electing a county executive for the first time since 1990 when Democrat Buzz Westfall ended 28 years of GOP control over the office.

St. Louis Public Radio aired the first public debate between two candidates for St. Louis County executive, Democrat Steve Stenger, left and Republican Rick Stream (right).
Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s somewhat instinctual for Missouri political reporters to describe every election as decisive, critical or groundbreaking. And to be fair, it’s not an unnatural impulse – since every Show Me State election year for the past couple of decades has featured a competitive statewide, U.S. Senate or presidential contest.

This year, though, state Auditor Tom Schweich likely won’t lose to his Libertarian or Constitution Party opponents, and the Missouri House and Senate will remain firmly in Republican hands. And there's no U.S. Senate contest.

Tim Bommel, House Communications

With dozens of sections and subsections, it wouldn’t be that easy to fit the Missouri Constitution in a shirt pocket. 

In the past 10 years, 24 amendments have been proposed to Missouri's constitution. Not all of those propositions passed, but the Show Me State’s constitution has been changed more often than the federal one. (The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times.)

This year’s election cycle featured more constitutional amendments on the ballot – nine – than any time in last decade. Three of them passed in August, and four more will be decided Tuesday.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

It’s been nearly a year since a group called Better Together formed to look at St. Louis’ regional governance. From the outset, the organization met with optimism – and skepticism. 

Megan Green recently won election to a Board of Aldermen seat as an independent. It may have showcased that voters in her ward were less interested in party identification and more concerned about individual candidates.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

On paper, Megan Ellyia Green should have been the underdog in last week’s 15th Ward election.

After Missy Pinkerton-McDaniel snagged the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed Jennifer Florida in the south St. Louis ward, Green decided to run as an independent. Given recent history, she didn’t face particularly good odds of winning a city that almost reflexively elects identified Democrats.

Illinois state Rep. Mike Bost's impassioned floor speech from 2012 is getting some attention. Democrats are using it to paint him as an ill-tempered extremist, while Republicans say it showcases his passion for his constituents.
Mike Bost's campaign

On the surface, Mike Bost and Moses don’t have that much in common. But some not-so-flattering political ads may create a different impression.

Bost – a Republican state representative from Murphysboro – is engaged in a highly competitive race against U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, for the 12th congressional district seat. It’s become vigorous enough to force the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to spend lots of money to paint Bost in a bad light.

Bill Greenblatt, UPI

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch was helping Councilman Steve Stenger in his bid for county executive from literally the moment he started running.

McCulloch was the introductory speaker at the Affton Democrat’s campaign kickoff last year. He's contributed close to $100,000 in in-kind contributions to Stenger's campaign. And he's appeared in ads attacking incumbent St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and praising Stenger’s promise to “clean up” St. Louis County.

Meldon Moffitt says he had a bad experience paying a municipal fine in Jennings. Policymakers from across the political spectrum may change how cities administer their municipal courts.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Ferguson resident Meldon Moffitt is part of a hardy group of protesters known as the Lost Voices, mostly young people willing to sleep on the street to get justice for Michael Brown’s family.

Moffitt said he believes more than just Ferguson needs to change. He said, for example, he received a stiff fine in Jennings for driving on a suspended license, even though he said he had paperwork clearing up the matter.

It’s part of what of what Moffitt says is as an unfair system affecting African Americans like himself.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

From looking at the raw numbers, Republican legislators might consider the Missouri General Assembly’s recent veto session a smashing success.

After all, the Republican-controlled body overrode 10 of Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes – and even more of his line-item vetoes. Nixon even faced a blistering condemnation from a Democratic senator over his response to Ferguson.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Tuesday with audio from the "St. Louis on the Air" veto session preview. 

The Missouri General Assembly’s veto session, which begins Wednesday, generally shuffles into the background during an election year. While legislators could have very busy day (or two), the unrest in Ferguson has sucked up most of the state’s political oxygen this year.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III talks to NPR's Michele Martin on Aug. 28.
Durrie Bouscaren, St. Louis Public Radio

It’s fair to say that Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III has broken the mold for elected leaders in north St. Louis County.    

When he was first elected to his post in 2011, Knowles became one of the youngest mayors in the state. He is also one of the few Republicans who managed to electorally prevail in the heavily Democratic area. And he’s probably the only elected official in Missouri who emerged victorious in an amateur wrestling match against Randy Orton, a north St. Louis County native who became a famous professional wrestler.

University City resident Marquis Govan has been going to St. Louis County Council meetings for three months. He made a speech before the council last Tuesday about the turmoil in Ferguson.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

The turmoil in Ferguson drew the attention of some powerful people. Everybody from state legislators to the President of the United States spoke out about Michael Brown’s death and its aftermath.

While Marquis Govan doesn’t have a fancy title, the 11-year-old has some poignant ideas about the conflict. The University City resident has a ravenous interest in politics – and plenty to say about what’s going on in Ferguson.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

When Antonio French noticed social media activity bubbling up about Michael Brown’s shooting death last weekend, the St. Louis alderman got in his car and drove to Ferguson. 

What he said he saw was striking: Police from neighboring municipalities had formed a “human shield” around the scene. Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, was screaming and crying over not knowing what happened to her 18-year-old son. And Brown’s body was still in the street after being shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer.

Rex Sinquefield
Courtesy of Rex Sinquefield's website

When it comes to donating to Missouri candidates and causes, retired financier Rex Sinquefield may subscribe to the idea of “going big or going home.” 

This past election campaign is no exception. Sinquefield has  given out around $4.4 million so far this year to support ballot initiatives, candidates and friendly political groups. That money has flowed directly -- or through outside groups -- to a host of candidates who competed in last week’s primary elections.

Parth Shah, St. Louis Public Radio

By any conceivable measure, Missouri doesn’t have a particularly robust election cycle this year. But that doesn't mean that there aren't lessons to learn.

Even though this year's primary season featured fewer contested races than usual, the past few months still produced twists, turns and surprises. That’s especially true because a number of ballot initiatives were placed on the August ballot, making up for a relative dearth of competitive legislative contests.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated at 8 p.m. on Monday with news about Schneider repaying her loan.)

Vicki Schneider got on the phone earlier this year with Bob Onder after he loaned himself $200,000 for his state Senate bid. 

She said she asked a fairly simple question of one of her opponents for the St. Charles County-based 2nd District seat: "Do you want me to help you spend that?"

“And he just laughed,” she said.

Gov. Jay Nixon speaks to a class at Rockwood Summit High School in Fenton.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

(Updated at 1 p.m. Monday with additional comments from House Speaker Tim Jones.)

Gov. Jay Nixon proved that he can outdo himself, at least when it comes to vetoing legislation. 

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