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Slay makes prominent pitch for Schweitzer, in circuit clerk contest

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is putting his clout on the line Tuesday, as he declares political war on the incumbent circuit clerk.

Slay is featured in a campaign mailer going out today on behalf of old law-school classmate Jane Schweitzer, who is challenging Circuit Clerk Mariano Favazza in Tuesday's Democratic primary. The two are pictured together on the front of the mailing.

Schweitzer -- daughter-in-law of the late, longtime Sheriff Gordon Schweitzer -- is backed by the city's judges, who have been at odds with Favazza for years. (To be fair, the city's circuit judges often have been at odds with his predecessors, including Mavis Thompson and Freeman Bosley Jr.)

Favazza said in an interview that he wasn't surprised by the mayor's action. He said he earlier had heard that Slay had been helping Schweitzer get ward endorsements.

"Politics is a very strange activity,'' said Favazza, who first won election to the clerk's post in 1998. "If the voters of St. Louis listen to the truth ... then I have every confidence that Tuesday night, when they count the votes, I'll have enough to keep on working for them."

Favazza contended that Schweitzer's campaign has been circulating inaccurate information about his tenure. He also asserted that Slay may fear Favazza is considering a run for mayor in 2013.

"Maybe he's hearing footsteps,'' said Favazza, who made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2004.

Slay also is endorsing a number of other Democrats in Tuesday's contests, including:

-- Karla May, who is in a rematch with state Rep. Hope Whitehead, D-St. Louis, in the city's 57th District. Whitehead won the first round in a February special election.

-- Penny Hubbard, who is running for the state House in the 58th District against James Morris. (The post used to be held by her son, Rodney Hubbard.)

-- Susan Carlson, who is competing in a four-way Democratic primary in the 64th District, as a result of incumbent Rachel Storch's decision to step down, get married and move to the East Coast.

-- state Sen. Joe Keaveny, who is challenged by James Long in the city's 4th District. Long, a retired police officer, is backed by the city's police and firefighters' groups, who are at odds with Slay over residency requirements and, in the case of firefighters, pay issues.  

Keaveny was Slay's choice for the Senate seat last fall, when it became vacant after Democrat Jeff Smith had to resign when he pleaded guilty to federal felony charges.

Mayoral endorsements in primaries are generally rare and can cause headaches -- especially if too many of the mayoral choices lose.

The city's last three-term mayor, Vincent C. Schoemehl, ran into that problem in the 1980s, when he vainly tried to oust or replace a number of incumbent Democrats. Those attempts came back to haunt him when Schoemehl made a bid for governor in 1992, and failed to carry the city of St. Louis -- primarily because some of those same Democrats had opted to back Mel Carnahan instead as pay back.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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