On the Trail: Southwest St. Louis helped carry Krewson to a narrow victory
Only two pushed through the crowded field of St. Louis mayoral candidates with enough support to win: Alderman Lyda Krewson and Treasurer Tishaura Jones, who received more than 60 percent of Tuesday’s vote combined.
But in the end, Krewson’s 888-vote edge — the closest result in a Democratic primary in decades — prevailed. The 28th Ward alderman chalked up the win to a robust organization and an appealing policy platform.
She also had the most money, some big-name endorsements and lots of supporters in high-turnout wards, and benefited from four black candidates splitting the vote in north St. Louis’ majority African-American wards, where turnout wasn’t particularly heavy.
To drill down into Tuesday’s close outcome, we answer the five questions posed earlier this week.
Will south St. Louis endorse Lyda Krewson?
Yes, though not as much as outgoing four-term Mayor Francis Slay.
Krewson racked up big margins of victory in southwest St. Louis, winning the 10th 12th, 14th, 16th, 23rd and 24th wards by sizable percentages. Those high-turnout — and heavily white — wards turned out to be critical, especially because Krewson fared poorly in majority African-American wards and didn’t win the central corridor that decisively. (She had a higher margin of victory in the 16th Ward than in her home ward.)
Had there been more candidates, things may have been different. Collector of Revenue Gregory F.X. Daly and Police Chief Sam Dotson both live in south St. Louis and could have snagged large enough margins to deprive Krewson of a victory.
Still, Jones was able to gain a foothold in more racially diverse parts of south St. Louis. She captured the 6th, 8th, 9th, 15th, 20th and 25th wards, and snagged decent percentages of the vote in the 11th, 14th and 24th wards. By comparison, Slay’s 2013 victory saw wins in all ward that are completely south of the “Delmar divide” except the 20th.
Can African-Americans boost turnout from 2013?
Yes, but not enough to make a difference.
More than 27 percent of St. Louis’ registered voters came out Tuesday — higher than 2013’s 22 percent turnout. But north St. Louis wards with large black populations split between Reed (who won in the 2rd, 3rd, 4thand 27th wards), Jones (who prevailed in the 1st, 5th, 18th and 26th wards) and French (who won his home 21st Ward). (Reed beat Jones in the 19th Ward by one vote.)
Some of Jones’ supporters, like state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, were openly frustrated that Reed, French and Alderman Jeffrey Boyd stayed in the race and effectively split the black vote. And Jones herself lamented how those three stayed in the race — while Nasheed bowed out.
“We’ve had several talks about us coming together and it hurt all of us,” Jones said during an interview with St. Louis Public Radio “And I’m going to be totally honest. The men decided to stay in the race because of their ego. And where are we now? We still have the status quo candidate that’s going to be in that office for the next four years.”
It’s not clear whether French and Boyd voters would have chosen Jones, considering Reed won all of north St. Louis in 2013 and likely would have received a decent share of the French/Boyd vote this time around. But that still wouldn’t have been enough to push him over Krewson.
Does money matter?
Yes, at least in the mayor’s race.
Krewson ended up raising and spending vastly more than the other candidates, Democrats and Republicans — and was the only contender with a significant presence on television. Jones' and Reed’s coffers allowed them to stuff mailboxes with fliers and have paid staffers directing door-to-door efforts. Those three were the only ones to win more than one ward.
French, on the other hand, struggled on the fundraising front – and his huge presence on social media didn’t yield support citywide. Boyd’s relative lack of resources was also significant, as he didn't even win a majority of votes in his home 22nd Ward.
But the aldermanic primary showed cash doesn’t translate to victory. In the 21st Ward, John Collins-Muhammad, 25, spent little cash and won big in the three-way Democratic primary. He came in second place last year for an open state House seat, which likely boosted his name recognition.
Which endorsements carry the most weight?
As noted Monday, this question is difficult to conclusively answer.
Given Krewson’s big margins of victory in southwest St. Louis, it’s not out of the question that having endorsements from Slay and Daly helped. And Jones clearly benefited from support of progressive activists and organizations who backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders last year and are active in south St. Louis.
Other endorsements, such as U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay for Reed or the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board’s endorsement of French … well ...
Will Republicans vote for ... Republicans?
It didn’t seem to be the case Tuesday.
More than 20,000 St. Louis residents voted for Donald Trump last year. Not all of them turned out this time, considering numbers were substantially lower than the presidential election.
Still, it’s a safe bet that city Republicans pulled Democratic ballots, especially because only 1,500 people voted in the GOP mayoral primary — and many in the heavily Krewson-supporter parts of southwest St. Louis.
“In a city like St. Louis that’s going to be represented by a Democrat mayor, it makes sense that a lot of Republicans look at the Democrat field and try to figure out which of the candidates would be the least offensive,” said Scott Dieckahus, a Republican political consultant who is friends with Tishaura Jones.
While Krewson doesn’t hold a lot of conservative policy positions, she might have attracted a decent amount of Republican crossover support due to the endorsement of the St. Louis Police Officers Association. In a razor-thin election like this one, that might have been enough to push her over the top.
On the Trail, a weekly column, weaves together some of the intriguing threads from the world of Missouri politics.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum