St. Louis mayoral race kicks off

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St. Louis mayoral race kicks off

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SLU hosts initial debate in BSC

On Sunday, the city of St. Louis gathered in the Wool Ballroom of the Busch Student Center for the second mayoral debate. Crowd estimates ranged from 1,000 to 1,500 people as citizens listened to five of the mayoral candidates spar over issues ranging from the proposed MLS soccer stadium to police accountability.

The candidates that participated were President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed, Treasurer Tishaura Jones,  Aldermen Antonio French, Jeffrey Boyd and Lyda Krewson, all running as members of the Democratic Party. These five are largely considered to be the leaders of the field’s pack, despite two more Democratic candidates, three Republicans, a Libertarian and a Green Party candidate who all have tossed their name in the running.

The influx of candidates can largely be attributed to the lack of an incumbent to take on. Current Mayor Francis Slay announced in April of last year that he would not be seeking another term. Having been the mayor since 2001, by the time he leaves office, he will solidify his title as longest serving mayor of the city.

With Slay not in the picture, voters must get to know the new candidates entering the race. This has made the debates and forums taking place all over the city all the more vital to the success of each candidate’s campaign.

One topic brought up early in the debate was the call by some for candidates polling particularly low, specifically Boyd, to pull out of the race and support another candidate. Boyd insisted that he will stay in the race until the end, and will be proud regardless of the outcome. This response did not sit too well with the audience.

The call for stepping out of the race comes from the fact that currently the black vote of the city is split by four contending candidates in the Democratic Party, whereas Krewson is the only white candidate. With the ticket split four ways, it is believed that the candidates may be giving the election to Krewson, the most conservative of the Democratic candidates.

Also affecting Krewson’s position as a favorite is that the St. Louis election is an open primary, in which one does not have to be registered to a party to partake in voting. This leads many residents that would normally vote for a GOP candidate to crossover, considering that the last Republican governor left office in 1949.

The debate stood in large contrast to those of the presidential election that were seen by millions in 2016. The answers of candidates were not always fully formulated and well articulated. The crowd felt no need to remain quiet if an answer did not appease them. It was a welcome change of pace from the uber-formality of the presidential cycle.

Of the candidates it was Jones who received the most vocal support from the crowd throughout the debate. Her plan to raise the minimum wage of St. Louis to $15 an hour was met with uproarious applause. Despite this strong support, Jones faltered when pressed by candidates about her usage of Slay’s team from his past campaigns.

While formulating a response to these attacks was something Jones took issue with, she won back the crowd when elaborating on why she was the only candidate that did not seek the endorsement of the Police Officers Association (POA). Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the POA, has a long history of clashing with critics of the St. Louis Police, such as leaders of the Ferguson protests.

“Anyone who stands with Roorda, I cannot support,” Jones proclaimed, which was met with a deafening applause from the audience.

Alternately, Krewson was subject to grilling for receiving the endorsement of the POA. When asked whether she would call for the resignation of Roorda, Krewson did not feel it was her place to call for one due to Roorda not being a public official. This statement brought an onslaught of boos and yells from the audience, so much so that it was necessary for the judges to request that the crowd settle down.

French gave a strong showing throughout the debate, receiving strong support for answers in which he slammed the proposed soccer stadium and said he would fire the current St. Louis Police Chief on day one. Though he had vocal support of many, the question in play for French’s campaign is his finances, which last reported he had $209.88 on hand.

The race will only heat up from now until the primary on March 7 which will decide which direction the city takes for the next four years.

There are many more forums with the candidates, giving them plenty of opportunities to continue to clash with one another. Though the outcome is not yet known, this election can be expected to have a record turnout given the heightened political awareness many citizens have shown in recent months.