St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay announces he will not run for re-election
This is a developing story and will be updated. Mayor Francis Slay is not seeking a fifth term in office.
The longest-serving mayor in the city's history made the announcement Friday at a hastily called press conference at City Hall. He was first sworn in in 2001.
"I will not be a candidate for mayor next year," Slay said. As recently as March 28, he had indicated he would be seeking another term, and said as much on our Politically Speaking podcast.
"Although St. Louis is still very recognizably the city that I have represented in one elected position or another since 1985, it is also a city that has slowly won back some of its swagger as a place to start a business, to raise a family, and to walk and ride a bicycle to work. I love what we are becoming," Slay said.
The mayor said his health is fine, and that he does not have another job lined up, though he did not rule out running for another office. He also has no plans to go out quietly.
"This is not goodbye," Slay said. "I am going to be mayor for another year. I will have a full and, likely, controversial agenda to complete."
A spokeswoman said Slay's priorities include economic development, education, and the pursuit of a north-south MetroLink line.
The mayor's statement:
Last week, NGA director Robert Cardillo made public his preference for St Louis to be the site of his agency’s next new headquarters. As his justification, he cited a city that is more likely to attract and retain — also engage and entertain — the sort of employees the NGA is going to need in the next several decades.
His words were heartening. That is exactly the kind of city that I, and a very talented team, have been trying to build.
Although St. Louis is still very recognizably the city that I have represented in one elected position or another since 1985, it is also a city that has slowly won back some of its swagger as a place to start a business, to raise a family, and to walk and ride a bicycle to work. I love what we are becoming.
This past week, city voters were presented an opportunity to go a different direction: to start down a 10-year path that would have seen the city, inevitably, leave some people behind. Since rich people almost always turn out OK, the intended victims are easy to guess. City voters, by an overwhelming percentage and in the face of the most expensive negative campaign ever mounted here, refused to go along.
Election night on Tuesday was one of my proudest moments as mayor.
It was also one of my final nights staying up late worrying about election returns.
I will not be a candidate for mayor next year.
To forestall some questions:
- This is not goodbye. I am going to be mayor for another year. I will have a full and, likely, controversial agenda to complete.
- My health is fine.
- I told my family last night. I told my City Hall staff this morning.
- I do not have plans for what I will do next. Hillary Clinton has not asked me to be her running mate. St Louis Football Club has not named me its manager.
- I have not ruled out a run for another public office. I do have almost a million dollars in my campaign account and I will probably do some fundraising for issues.
- I have no intention of leaving office before my term is complete, which will mean a rigorous pair of primaries in March of 2017. I have not endorsed a successor, but I might.
I will be at work on Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. And Thursday... because I am still going to be mayor. For another year.
The news surprised many watchers of St. Louis politics.
Reporters informed Tom Shepard, the chief of staff to president Lewis Reed of the news. Alderwoman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, was also shocked.
In a phone interview, Collector of Revenue Gregory F.X. Daly said he was with the mayor on Tuesday during the city’s municipal elections and was told to have a conversation at the end of the week.
“He called me this morning and indicated that he was not going to seek a fifth term,” Daly said. “After I asked him how he was doing and how his family was doing, it was kind of a surprise to me.”
Joe Reagan, the president of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, also said he was not expecting the news. He called Slay an outstanding mayor who was a close partner in efforts to grow the local economy.
"He's somebody that when he makes up his mind, he's listened," Reagan said. "When he's made up his mind about a policy or direction, he plants his feet firmly and he stays on course until he achieves what he has set out to do."
He pointed to the mayor's support for public education, and the return of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to local control as examples.
Praise poured in from regional elected officials and leaders.
I'm sure every pollster I know is hard at work as we speak.— Jamilah Nasheed (@SenatorNasheed) April 8, 2016
Nasheed told St. Louis Public Radio that it made sense for Slay to step aside, especially after the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency announced it would stay in St. Louis and the earnings tax was reauthorized.
"He’s going out with two big wins, which is a great thing. I think that’s the way to go out,” said Nasheed, D-St. Louis. “The city will continue to thrive. And we will have, at some point, individuals coming out to run for office. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
Before she won election to the Missouri legislature, Nasheed was a Slay antagonist – especially after the highly controversial redistricting process after the 2000 census. But Nasheed and Slay eventually became political allies.
“When I became an elected official, I knew at that point I would have to work with him – you can’t get anything done for the city if you’re not working with the mayor of the city,” Nasheed said. “And from there, we’ve been friends and have a great relationship. He’s a good guy – a really good guy. And he truly, truly understands the city and the needs of the city. We were able to do some things together just last year in terms of … tearing down vacant buildings on the North Side.”
Clay told St. Louis Public Radio that he appreciated the mayor's focus on lead paint.
"When he first got there, he attacked the whole lead paint issue," Clay said. "And we were successful in reducing the incidents of exposure to lead for people who live in the city."
Clay says he is focused on his own re-election campaign right now and hasn’t yet thought about who should be the city’s next mayor.
But the mayor also had his detractors.