St. Louis voters have sent aldermanic president Lewis Reed back to City Hall.
Reed edged out his two major opponents — Alderwoman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, and state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis — with 36 percent of the vote in unofficial but complete results in Tuesday’s primary. It was Reed’s most competitive race as board president since he was first elected in 2007. Nasheed and Green both got about 31 percent of the vote, and were separated by just 144 votes. No Republican or independent candidates filed for the April election.
In addition, all 11 incumbent aldermen won re-election, though some by narrow margins. Turnout citywide was almost 18 percent.
“This is our time, St. Louis,” Reed told a crowd at Vin de Set restaurant, in his old 6th Ward. “We’re going to determine what the new St. Louis looks like. We’re going to eliminate the Delmar Divide. We’re not gonna be north St. Louis and south St. Louis and the central corridor. We’re going to be one St. Louis, and that’s our future.”
The city, Reed noted, will have a lot of difficult choices to make over the next four years. Under the consolidation proposal pushed by Better Together, the city government will cease to exist. Reed will also likely have a key vote as a member of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment on whether to privatize operations at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.
Comptroller Darlene Green, one of the other two members, remains skeptical of the need to privatize, frequently pointing out that the airport is profitable and in a strong financial position. Mayor Lyda Krewson, the final member, is generally more supportive of the idea, which would leave Reed as a potential tiebreaker.
Reed on Tuesday again declined to say whether he supports a private operator taking over the airport.
“Nobody knows what anything looks like to say what you will agree to,” he said. “It’s like saying, ‘Are you going to eat your whole dinner tomorrow?’ It’s like, 'I don’t know what my dinner is; I don’t know what I’m going to eat prior to that.'”
Nasheed will remain in the state Senate, where she has almost two years left in her final term. Green will remain alderwoman of the 15th Ward.
During her concession speech at the Mahler Ballroom, Nasheed told her supporters “unfortunately we didn’t make it — however, at the end of the day, they’re going to still have to deal with Jamilah Nasheed.”
“We’re going to be in the game every step of the way,” Nasheed said.
Green said change was the winner on Tuesday, despite Reed’s victory and the incumbents keeping their seats on the board.
“If we had a different system of voting in this city, if we had instant runoff or ranked-choice voting, I think change would have won the president of the board tonight, too,” Green told her supporters who gathered at the Ready Room. “I think that the overwhelming majority in this city are dissatisfied with the direction that we’re going in.”
Green was referring to how more than 60 percent of the people who cast ballots in the board president race voted for someone other than Reed. She said the results show that he needs to be better about getting out the message about his accomplishments.
During her speech, Nasheed blasted Green and her supporters. “Everything they hate about St. Louis, they perpetuated it in this race,” Nasheed said.
“Because you can’t say you’re for Black Lives Matter and you want to try to reduce black representation. And so if it wasn’t but for her being in this, being Megan Green, we would have had a win.”
When told about Nasheed’s comments, Green replied: “I’m just happy that we’re the only campaign that ran a positive, issues-oriented campaign.”
“And I think that’s what voters want to see in this city, are people who actually are talking about the real issues that our city faces, and not slinging mud at each other,” Green said. “And I think we can’t move forward as a city until we elect representation that is centering good public policy before any personality disputes or any kind of personal attack.”
The candidates for president and their supporters spent nearly $800,000 on the race, when money from outside groups is included. The election was notable, because for the first time, a 501(c)(4) that does not have to disclose its donors paid for ads to support Reed and seven aldermanic candidates.
But overall, this was not a big-money election. All three candidates combined reported taking in $70,000 in large contributions (those over $5,000 that have to be reported separately to the Missouri Ethics Commission), and $10,000 of that was a donation that Green made to her own campaign.
By comparison, when Reed ran for mayor in 2017 against four serious challengers, he raised almost $218,000 in those large contributions in between January and March of that year alone.
The Board of Aldermen will look substantially the same when lawmakers return for the new session. All 11 even-ward incumbents who ran for re-election won — two had no challengers.
Three new aldermen will join them. In the 18th Ward, Jesse Todd, the ward’s longtime Democratic committeeman, will replace Terry Kennedy, who will take a position with the board as its clerk. And Shameem Clark Hubbard won the seat in the 26th Ward, replacing Frank Williamson, who is working in the treasurer’s office.
Bret Narayan, the Democratic nominee for the open 24th Ward seat, will face two independent candidates, Michael Berg and Steven Basinger, in April. Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, has a Republican challenger, Michael Hebron.
Reed said the composition of the board won’t deter him from pushing his agenda, which includes two anti-violence programs and new ways to deal with vacant buildings.
“I don’t think we set the agenda based on membership,” he said. “We set the agenda based on the needs.”
The 2018-2019 session of the Board of Aldermen wraps up April 15. Several major issues — including a proposed expansion of the St. Louis Port District and how money to waterproof and secure city-owned vacant houses will be distributed — remain. The new aldermen will be sworn in April 16.
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