Michael Person is likely to be the next state representative from the Ferguson area after local Democratic officials unanimously nominated him to represent the party in a November special election.
No other candidates sought the party’s endorsement Wednesday night. The district leans so heavily Democratic that the nomination makes Person the heavy favorite to win the 74th District seat on Nov. 5.
A special election is being held for the seat after Cora Faith Walker stepped down to take a job working for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. Walker announced last month that she would become Page’s director of policy.
Person previously served on the Riverview Gardens School Board and unsuccessfully ran for Ferguson City Council earlier this year. He’s been active in Democratic politics and has worked on other people’s campaigns for 30 years, he said.
Person works for Ameren on diversity and inclusion issues.
“I’ve always been part of the public service machinery. It’s just now, here is an opportunity to be one of the main cogs in the machinery,” Person said.
If he wins the November election, Person said he will focus on workforce development and education issues.
An algebra tutor for years, Person said he is worried that young people don’t develop enough critical thinking skills in school. He also said an emphasis has to be placed on teaching young adults skilled trades — such as plumbing and electrical work.
“There is more work than [people in the] skilled trades can do right now,” Person said.
Two House Democrats raised questions this week about the location of the meeting for selecting a nominee. The process took place in Person’s home, which some say is a rare venue for picking a candidate.
“Wow. Is there a precedent of public nominating meetings being held in a committeeperson’s home? Is the home ADA/Wheelchair accessible?” wrote state Rep. Kevin Windham Jr., a fellow St. Louis County Democrat, on the St. Louis County Democratic Central Committee’s Facebook page.
“There should be something added in our party’s bylaws that specify these meetings, which are open to the public, be in a public and accessible location,” wrote state Rep. Raychel Proudie, another Ferguson Democrat.
The St. Louis Democratic Committee account answered: “I am not aware of a nominating meeting being held in this manner in the past. Typically they happen in a public venue such as a restaurant, firehouse, etc.”
Person picked the location for the nominating meeting himself. He was allowed to do so because he is the local Democratic chairman in charge of the nominating process.
Person said it was easier to have the event at his house because it’s large enough to hold a lot of people and sits on a large piece of land with plenty of room for parking. He’s had other Democratic functions at his house, including a meet-and-greet event for then-U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and a going-away party for a local police chief.
“We were trying to get it at a church, but we didn’t have the available parking that we needed. And since I had previously have had functions here, it’s a place that people are used to coming to,” Person said.
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