Voters favor familiar faces in St. Louis Aldermen contests; Ingrassia wins in 6th Ward
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 5, 2013 - When the Board of Aldermen reconvenes later this year, the people who comprise the 28-member body will look awfully familiar.
That’s because St. Louis residents in 13 out of 15 wards voted to give incumbent city lawmakers another four years in office. That outcome wasn’t completely unexpected: Only seven wards had contested Democratic primaries, which in most cases are the decisive electoral contests. While several wards feature Republican or Green Party candidates, winning the Democratic primary in most instances is tantamount to election.
In fact, the only brand new face will be that of Christine Ingrassia, who won a three-way race in the south St. Louis 6th Ward to fill out the term of former Alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett. Ingrassia received 50.61 percent of the vote, compared to 26.25 percent for 6th Ward Committeeman Damon Jones and 23.14 percent for Michelle Witthaus.
The only incumbent to lose re-election was Alderman Charles “Quincy” Troupe, and he fell to former Alderwoman Sharon Tyus. Tyus had unsuccessfully run against Troupe in 2005 and 2009 but managed to prevail in the north St. Louis ward with 47.73 percent of the vote. A third candidate -- Yolanda Coleman -- nabbed 18.26 percent of the vote.
Ingrassia has served as the 6th Ward’s director of outreach. She also has been involved in the Vashon Jeff Vanderlou Initiative, the 6th Ward Democratic Organization and the Gate District East Neighborhood Association.
That type of experience, Ingrassia said earlier this year, would be an asset for the ward. She dubbed herself a “proven problem solver,” who has connected with residents and neighborhood associations to tackle vexing problems.
"I think the relationships that I’ve cultivated throughout the ward over the past couple of years were evident to the residents," said Ingrassia in a Wednesday interview with the Beacon. "I’m committed. I can follow through. And I’ll listen to what they think is important and then address those issues."
She added that her experience working within the ward will provide for a smooth transition if she prevails over Green Party nominee Eugene Frison Sr. in August.
"I know a little bit that’s going to allow me to hit the ground running," Ingrassia said. "I know the most of the aldermen. I know a lot of the people that work for the city. I’ve already been working with them on projects, so it’s not like I’ll be starting with them on square one. But I obviously have a lot to learn. And I already have e-mails into city department heads to start figuring that out."
Tyus – who did not return a message from the Beacon on Tuesday night – is an attorney who was an outspoken member of the Board of Aldermen during the late 1990s. She had accused Mayor Francis Slay’s then-new administration in 2001 of being behind the redistricting that shifted her ward across town.
Since then, she has tried twice to oust Troupe but failed. She also unsuccessfully sought a state representative seat, a race won by now-Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis.
Meanwhile, five incumbents running in contested races easily won another four years in office:
- Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr., D-3 rd Ward, added another four years to his lengthy tenure by outflanking Jeffrey Hardin, Anthony Bell and Maxine Johnson. Bosley Sr. received 53.88 percent of vote, Hardin got 17.60 percent, Bell received 17.80 percent and Johnson took 10.72 percent.
Bosley Sr. has served as alderman since 1977, excluding a four-year period in the late 1980s when he was out of office after running for mayor in 1985. Hardin, Bell and Johnson have run against Bosley Sr. in previous election cycles.
- Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard, D-5th Ward, fought back a challenge from Michelle Hutchings-Medina. Hubbard racked up 55.44 percent, compared to Hutchings-Medina’s 44.56 percent. The 5th Ward includes parts of Carr Square, downtown west, Old North St. Louis and St. Louis Place.
- Alderwoman Jennifer Florida, D-15th Ward, won a fourth term on the board, defeating book publisher Lisa Miller by 62.13 percent to 37.87 percent. Florida represents a south St. Louis ward that includes areas of Tower Grove East and Tower Grove South, Dutchtown, Benton Park West and Gravois Park.<
- Alderman Antonio French, D-21st Ward, won a second term in office in a landslide by defeating former 21st Ward Committeeman Kerry Wilson. French received 80.16 percent, while Wilson nabbed 19.84 percent. The 21st Ward encompasses Kingsway East, O'Fallon, Mark Twain, Penrose and the Greater Ville.
- Alderman Chris Carter, D-27th Ward, fended off a challenge from 27th Ward Committeewoman Pamela Boyd to win a full term representing the north St. Louis ward. Carter – a former Missouri House member – received 74.13 percent, while Boyd got 25.87 percent. The 27th Ward includes Walnut Park, North Point and Baden.
The results mean that the board – likely to be composed of 27 Democrats and 1 Independent – will possess a mixture of experienced hands and relative newcomers. Some aldermen who won re-election – such as Bosley Sr. and Aldermen Fred Wessels, D-13th Ward – have literally decades of experience. Carter, French and Alderman Shane Cohn, D-25th Ward, represent a more youthful bloc on a legislative body with no term limits.
Some younger board members have been willing to challenge the board's conventional wisdom. French and Alderman Scott Ogilvie, I-24th Ward, have been two of the biggest critics of a sales tax increase to improve the Arch grounds and local parks. Ogilvie unsuccessfully pushed changes to the board's conflict of interest policies.
For some of the winners, fighting crime was a stated priority. Carter is angling to get private dollars to install security cameras throughout the 27th Ward. Ingrassia pledged to use her experience writing grants to get money to fight crime in the 6th Ward.
"I think we also need to look at how the budget is going to be laid out now that we have local control of the police department," said Ingrassia, alluding how the state will no longer control the city's police department this summer. "We need to fight crime, but we also have to have a concerted effort based upon youth violence prevention, so that we're helping kids have successful lives and preventing them from turning to crime."
Others have economic development goals in mind. French wants to use historic preservation tax credits to revitalize portions of O’Fallon, similar to how the incentives helped the Central West End, Soulard, Washington Avenue and Lafayette Square. Florida ;is aiming to refurbish Morganford’s business district, which was added to her ward through redistricting.
In the short term, all 28 aldermen will have to approve a plan to combine some of the city’s economic development responsibilities with St. Louis County. They'll likely wrestle with the impact. And depending on how the Missouri Supreme Court rules, city officials may have to go back to the drawing board on developer Paul McKee’s plan to revitalize north St. Louis.