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Government, Politics & Issues

Tishaura Jones, Cara Spencer Advance To St. Louis Mayoral Runoff

St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones (left) and Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, address reporters on Primary Election Day, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. They will face each other in a runoff election for St. Louis Mayor on April 6.
David Kovaluk
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St. Louis Public Radio
Tishaura Jones (left) and Cara Spencer address reporters on Tuesday. The candidates will face each other in a runoff election for St. Louis Mayor on April 6.

Updated at 12:15 a.m. March 3

For the first time in St. Louis history, two women will compete head-to-head to be the city’s mayor.

Treasurer Tishaura Jones and Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, were the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary. Jones received 25,374 votes and Spencer got 20,649. It was the first in which voters could pick as many candidates as they wanted in the primary under a new system approved last year. Turnout was about 22%.

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“This campaign from the start has been about lifting up voices of those in our city who have been forgotten by the political establishment in City Hall,” Jones said at a press conference at her campaign headquarters in the Ellendale neighborhood. “We’ve made public safety and ending the scourge of gun violence in our community our top priority and made it clear we must act with urgency and an eye toward equity to keep our communities safe and rebuild them from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Spencer told supporters at an outside gathering on Cherokee Street, in her southeast St. Louis ward, that she was “incredibly honored, and incredibly proud” to have advanced to the runoff.

“This conversation has already changed the city,” she said “We have changed the dialogue about what it means to be in public office. We’ve turned our attention to the special interests who have run the city for decades. The future of St. Louis is bright. It looks different and it looks like all of us.”

Lewis Reed, President of the Board of Aldermen, was third, with 17,162 votes. Utility executive Andrew Jones was a distant fourth with 6,422.

Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, casts her ballot at Gambrinus Hall in south St. Louis in the Tuesday, March 2, 2021 primary election.
David Kovaluk
Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, casts her primary election ballot Tuesday at Gambrinus Hall in south St. Louis.

Spencer’s advancement was a bit of a surprise, as she had no citywide experience and had been lagging behind in polling. But she was likely helped by strong fundraising numbers, which enabled her to outspend her opponents in the last weeks of the election.

“We got out there and we told a great story about what St. Louis can be and what I will do as your next mayor, if I’m elected, to serve our city in a different way,” Spencer said.

Tishaura Jones also said she was a little surprised by the results, as most polls showed her and Reed fighting for the top two spots.

“But as we’ve seen, polls can be deceiving,” she said, pointing to public polls from 2017 that had her coming in fourth place when she actually came in a close second.

Shared progressive policies

Tishaura Jones and Spencer are similar enough policy-wise that Spencer endorsed Jones as a second choice for her supporters during a debate last month.

“In the coming weeks we will talk about the differences between the two of us,” Spencer said. “I think it’s a real testament to the people of St. Louis who want to see real change, and that’s why you see the two change agents, I would say, who really prevailed here tonight.”

Tishaura Jones called public safety and "ending the scourge of gun violence" a top priority of her mayoral candidacy during a press conference Tuesday night, March 3, 2021.
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones called public safety and "ending the scourge of gun violence" a top priority of her mayoral candidacy during a press conference Tuesday night.

Tishaura Jones received the backing of national progressive politicians and organizations. And she added that her experience in citywide offices makes her the better choice.

“This is a coalition I’ve built for years,” she said. “I’ve run citywide several times. And in the August election, I won 24, almost 25, out of 28 wards. So this is a multiracial, multiethnic, multi identity coalition. And I’m confident we can win again in April.”

In an episode of the Politically Speaking podcast, Spencer pointed to the fact that she has been elected twice as a white woman in a majority Black ward as evidence of her ability to build coalitions.

Reed pledged to work with whomever is next elected mayor, especially on the issue of public safety. He will be Board of Aldermen president until at least 2023.

“Our city has a lot of issues, and it’s time to unify and make a change,” he said.

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed signs in to vote at during the primary election Tuesday, March 3, 2021 at Shenandoah Elementary School. Reed placed third in the mayoral primary.
David Kovaluk
Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed signs in to vote at during the primary election Tuesday at Shenandoah Elementary School. Reed placed third in the mayoral primary.

In a statement, Andrew Jones congratulated the two winners.

“Although our ideas for how to solve the issues facing the city differ, the three of us agree that change is needed, and I trust that the eventual winner will put in the hours and assemble the staff necessary to right the course for the city,” he said

Both Spencer and Tishaura Jones tout fighting crime with a holistic approach.

They would also push to close the north St. Louis jail known as the Workhouse, once the safety and health of inmates at the Criminal Justice Center downtown is assured.

They both are skeptical of the need to privatize operations at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.

The two primary finalists will face off April 6 in the general election to replace Mayor Lyda Krewson, who decided not to seek a second term.

Aldermanic races

All 15 incumbent aldermen running for re-election will get a chance to keep their seats in April. In addition to the regularly-scheduled elections for the odd wards, there were elections in the 4th and 12th wards to fill the remainder of terms of aldermen who left office.

Comptroller Darlene Green is unopposed in her bid for a seventh full term in the office.

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