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St. Louis labor leader to challenge Slay in April

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(KWMU photo)
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Elston McCowan, at front, announces his run for mayor at City Hall.

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – A St. Louis pastor and labor leader has announced his intentions to run as the Green Party candidate against Mayor Francis Slay in April.

Elston McCowan is the public services director for the St. Louis-area Service Employees International Union, and the minister at Star Grace Missionary Baptist Church. He says people should be outraged by ongoing issues with lead contamination and the towing scandal that lead to the resignation of police chief Joe Mokwa.

"What we want to do is turn the city back over to the people. We want to restore the will of the people to the citizens of St. Louis. That's what this candidate is going to do," McCowan said, as about a dozen supporters looked on at City Hall.

Slay, the incumbent, is sitting on a warchest of nearly $1.2 million, and has picked up the endorsement of several unions - including the one that employs McCowan. Slay thumped his Republican opponent in 2001 by more than 35,000 votes, and beat his Green Party challenger in 2005 with nearly 80 percent of the vote. But that amounted to less than 20,000 votes. McCowan says he plans to build on the strength of voter registration efforts launched by several groups before the presidential election in November.

"And if we do that, and we energize the people, if we get folk out to vote, if we get, 20-some-odd or more, 30,000, 40,000 votes, that gives us a mandate to implement our programs," McCowan said.

Slay campaign spokesmen Jeff Rainford said turnout in 2005 was low because people assumed Slay would win, and would increase if the mayor faced a serious challenge.

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