St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Early handicapping in the 4th District

Speculation is running rampant on the upcoming Democratic Primary in the 4th senate district in St. Louis, as candidates line up to replace term-limited Sen. Patrick Dougherty. The district is prohibitively Democratic (80.3% Kerry), so victory in the primary is tantamount to election.

Filing doesn’t open for another three months, but four major candidates have formally announced: former congressional candidate Jeff Smith, State Rep. Amber Boykins, State Rep. Yaphett El-Amin, and former Election Board Chair (and former State Rep.) Derio Gambaro. I shared some of my thoughts about this contest last week in the Post Dispatch’s Political Fix blog, so I ought to refine them and post them here.

The district’s most important demographic is race. Smith and Gambaro are white, and Boykins and El-Amin are African Americans. Although the recent migration of many less race-conscious urban professionals into south St. Louis has reduced the significance of racial politics, most of those voters live to the east of this district, leaving the racial politics of the past generation alive and well in the 4th district. The district’s population was 53.5% black according to the 2000 census, but election data suggest that its electorate is about 60% white.

Mathematically, this means that winning half the white vote wins 30% of the entire district vote. A candidate with no white votes would need 75% of the black vote to match that 30%. A candidate who wins more than two thirds of the white vote can win the district without any black votes. My early analysis will therefore address (1) competition among the district’s white voters and (2) the candidates’ relative ability to attract voters of the other race.

My starting point for analyzing the district’s white vote is the 2004 Democratic congressional primary in which Smith was a candidate. The portion of the congressional district that is in this senate district comprises most of the district’s white voters (except for the corridor between Delmar and Lindell). While Smith finished second to Russ Carnahan in the congressional district, he won the precincts in the 4th district. Here are those results:

Jeff Smith 28.10%
Mariano Favazza 22.67
Russ Carnahan 19.28
Joan Barry 16.22
Mark Smith 7.73
Steve Stoll 3.71
Jo Ann Karll 1.18
3 others combined 1.13

There are hundreds of cross-currents that erode the following speculation, but I believe Smith should keep his own voters and is also most likely to appeal to most of Carnahan’s and Karll’s. Gambaro will probably appeal to Favazza’s and Stoll’s supporters and many of Barry’s (although Joan herself might persuade some to vote for Jeff). I’d say Smith would outpoll Gambaro in this part of the district by 8-10 percentage points, and run even stronger among white voters in the Lindell-Delmar corridor. That would give Smith about 32% of the district’s vote before factoring in cross-race voters. A plurality is all it takes to win.

Boykins appears to have the advantage in the battle for the north side. Her early fundraising has been impressive, though behind Smith. I initially thought El-Amin was the stronger black candidate, based on the strong “ground game” she demonstrated when winning her state rep seat in 2002. But she was late getting started, and her campaign reports from her state rep campaign demonstrate a lack of grasp over that important aspect of the campaign. She is also engaged in a bitter feud in her own ward, where she needs to be strong to be competitive in this contest. I expect black support to coalesce around the African American frontrunner when one emerges, and that currently looks like Boykins.

How are the candidates likely to fare among voters not of their race? At this point I don’t see either Gambaro or El-Amin winning significant votes among the opposite race, but both Smith and Boykins have potential to do so.

Smith worked hard to establish rapport with the black community in 2004 even though there were very few African American voters in the congressional district. He promises to take a personal door-to-door campaign to the north side, and Smith generally follows through on promises like that.

On the other hand, Boykins benefits from the political contacts of her father, Luther Boykins. Dad’s contacts have produced the support of Kim Tucci and former State Rep. Tony Ribaudo, and Tucci recently announced the endorsement of Sheriff (and 12th Ward Committeeman) Jim Murphy. I believe that Tucci’s help will be more financial than directly influential with voters, but his financial clout will help Boykins afford media and direct mail. The Murphy endorsement is less meaningful, because Murphy is probably the city’s least respected citywide official, and his ward includes only one small precinct in the district. Gender politics generally gives women candidates in a Democratic primary an extra 2% across racial lines, but Boykins must split that advantage with El-Amin.

Overall, it looks to me like Smith and Boykins will draw comparably from voters of the other race, with Smith’s work ethic and personal one-on-one appeal tipping the scales in his favor. He won in the 4th District in 2004 without a single ward endorsement.

Eight months out with the field not yet set, the advantage is to Smith, narrowly over Boykins, with Gambaro and El-Amin trailing. But things can change.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Good to see you posting again. You have insightful analysis backed up with useful data.

I agree with your early read on the 4th District. We'll see how the campaign develops.

November 28, 2005 at 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very insightful and arguably accurate portrayal of what is likely to be the only really good Dem primary on this side of the state – It will probably be the only real race Democrats in the city are dealing with next August.

December 2, 2005 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger St. Louis Oracle said...

While Democratic Party honchos are very busy trying replace primary elections with brokered deals (e.g., the deal involving the 5th Council District and the 83rd legislative district), the 4th Senate District probably won't be the only interesting primary. Although there certainly will be an attempt to broker deals over the four citywide posts on the ballot in 2006, I expect those efforts to fail, and that there will be old-fashioned black vs white primaries for some, many all of them.

December 2, 2005 at 7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tucci and Ribaudo are connected to folks in Gambaro's own backyard, but ultimately better connected to Room 200. I think hizzoner is trying to rebuild northside rapport by quietly backing Boykins. However, as Lou Hamilton suspects, wanting influence with whomever wins, all political insiders know Jeff has the perceived lead. Thus, why Slay's friends must act so quietly in the long run.

December 9, 2005 at 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Franicis Slay Sr.'s endorsement will be a big statement and really fuel Jeff's momentum in this race. In the end, I don't think Gambaro is not going to be a very big factor.

December 14, 2005 at 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 4th District is very important race and we hope it goes smooth!

We also hope to get help from across Missouri and the nation on the Papa Blunt effort!

BREAKING NEWS---Draft Kreider Hammers Out Challenge
For Immediate Release---For Worldwide Release per internet
Contact: Steven Reed 417-866-4453
Deborah Yeoman 417-865-1711

Dallas County Democrat Central Committee has contributed $100 to the Draft Kreider committee and now the Phelps Democratic Central Committee has also just sent $100. “Clearly these two progressive Democrat committees from across Missouri understand the importance of getting Jim Kreider to run for United States Congress. They understand this race has not only Missouri, but National race written all over it!”---says Steven Lloyd Reed of Springfield. “I would like to point out that Phelps county is in central Missouri, Dallas county is in southwest Missouri but it is outside of the 7th Congressional District. This clearly shows that these counties understand the magnitude of this race,” according to Team Captain Coordinator Deborah Yeoman of Springfield.

THE CHALLENGE---The Draft Kreider Committee hereby issues a CHALLENGE to all of Missouri 118 County Democratic committees to meet the $100 benchmark. It is time for the counties and the State Party ran by Roger Wilson to understand how serious this effort is and how many lives that could be effected. It is time to step up to the plate and move this state forward.

“I called all the County Chairs last December and January and they all said that southwest Missouri is hurting the whole state effort to elect Democrats,” according to Reed. Clearly having Jim Kreider who is even liked by Republicans on the ballot in southwest Missouri would cause a higher vote turn out which will help win the Statewide Auditor and United States Senate seat in 2006 and help get the area and state organized for the Governor’s and Presidential race in 2008.

Kansas City and Saint Louis which point southwest when they talk about losing state elections need to jump into this effort right away. Reed saw Jim Kreider while each had a family member in the hospital last month and Jim Kreider said he will see how it all stacks up! Under federal law we can not plan a campaign but a draft committee can talk to the possible candidate about trying to persuade them.

Ian Stirton, a spokesman for the FEC, said there isn’t a ban against members of a political committee meeting and talking with a possible candidate. But a possible candidate shouldn’t talk strategy with such a committee because that could be interpreted as the possible candidate authorizing the drafting effort. In that case, the possible candidate would be acknowledging that he is a candidate and would have to file papers with the commission, Stirton said.

We have created the largest Draft campaign for a Congressperson effort in the history of the United States of America. We have had no Press or Media stories, but what it does show is we do not need the permission of the Press. The people are crying out for change in this country and we are on the move trying to make that happen says Team Captain Coordinator Deborah Yeoman of Springfield.


We need a serious candidate against Roy Blunt---please take a look at helping---thanks!

December 26, 2005 at 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty sad when an "early handicapping" of this race takes no notice of the respective talents or experience of the candidates whatsoever. Is race really the only relevant factor in considering who might win this?

If race is the big determinant, what does it really mean when white politicians like Jim Murphy (not exactly known for his civil rights positions!) throw their support for an African American candidate? That white politicians are ready to play racial politics in order to "win"? In that event, can the voters (African Americans and others) ever win, given that they ultimately have no control over who runs or where their money comes from? If Slay, Tucci, Robaudo, et al. are calling the shots for a black candidate, to what extent will that candidate have the interests of their constituents in mind?

This is why St. Louis politics is pure bullshit.

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