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.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Browning's filing could affect contest for board prez

A contested Republican primary on the southern edge of the city could have a significant impact on the Democratic Primary for President of the Board of Alderman.

One of today's surprises on the first day of filing for municipal offices in the City of St Louis was the filing of disabled retired police officer Matt Browning for alderman in the 12th Ward (south of Carondelet Park). Shortly thereafter, incumbent Alderman Fred Heitert also filed.

Heitert has rarely faced opposition during his 28-year tenure. But what makes this really interesting in the overwhelmingly Democratic city is that both incumbent Heitert and challenger Browning are Republicans. While the 12th is the second most Republican ward in the city (behind the 16th), Republican Sen. Jim Talent, who got the most votes of any Republican running in the ward this year, got less than 37% of the vote.

While the Heitert-Browning contest should be interesting if neither withdraws, it may have an even bigger impact on the Democratic primary for president of the Board. That contest is shaping up as a classic black vs. white barnburner between white incumbent Jim Shrewsbury and an African American challenger, 6th Ward Alderman Lewis Reed. In contests like that, most of the 20% or so of the city's Republican voters usually cross over and vote in the Democratic primary, usually for whichever Democrat is most conservative.

While not quite the most Republican ward, the 12th is nevertheless regarded as the city's most conservative. In the 2005 contest for Mayor, Republican crossovers swelled the ward's totals in the Democratic Primary and gave white conservative Mayor Francis Slay a big margin over black Alderman Irene Smith. Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce enjoyed similar crossover support in her 2004 primary win over Jerald Christmas, and this year Shrewsbury would be expected to enjoy similar support against Reed (even though Shrewsbury isn't particularly conservative on matters not involving abortion - similar to Sen. Pat Dougherty). Shrewsbury won a big margin in the 12th when he first won the post by defeating 28th Ward Alderman Lyda Krewson. But with an interesting Republican Primary between Heitert and Browning, many 12th Ward Republicans will "stay home" and participate in their own party's business. Nearly every erstwhile Republican crossover who votes in her/his own primary instead is probably a lost Shrewsbury vote in the aldermanic presidency contest.

With the 12th being an important part of the high-turnout southwest city bloc that powers conservative Democrats to victory, one almost smells a rat, as though the impact on the aldermanic presidency contest were the prime motive for creating an unusual GOP primary contest as a diversion. Such would be consistent with the style of Reed consultant Richard Callow. But it's hard to imagine that scenario playing out with these players. Though conservative for my personal tastes, I regard both Heitert and Browning as class acts. While there is no love lost between the St Louis Police Officers Association and Shrewsbury, I can't really see the SLPOA going out of its way to help Reed. (The conspiracy theory would sprout into full bloom if the SLPOA were to endorse Reed.) Heitert also lacks any apparent motive to boost Reed over Shrewsbury. In fact, if the Shrewsbury-Reed contest appears close, I could even see Heitert opting to retire and eliminate the diversionary primary.

Let's see how filing proceeds, and see whether political unknowns file to create contested Republican primaries in other wards where Shrewsbury is expected to run strong (e.g., the 10th, 14th, 24th, or even Shrewsbury's own 16th).


Anonymous The Lou Wonk said...

If I were Matt Browning, I would be offended at your assertion that he is anyone's puppet. Mr. Browning is a hero, who has dedicated his life to serving the people of St. Louis as a police officer, and in the line-of-duty lost his legs. Now, he seeks an office to further his service to the people, and the muck-rakers belittle his attempts with whispers of conspiracy. How low!

The real conspiracy will be if Alderman Fred Heitert withdraws from the race because of promises made to him by Jim Shrewsbury.

November 28, 2006 at 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 12th is the only Ward where such a conspiracy would have any impact. No one, not even a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, is going to get excited about a contested Republican primary in a Ward where the incumbent or some other Democrat is all but ensured to win the general. Donna Barringer is now a popular incumbent in the 16th, so I doubt that even a contested Republican primary in that most Republican of wards would cause GOPers to vote in the GOP primary.

November 28, 2006 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Travis Reems said...


The assumption that Republicans in the 12th ward would not vote for an African-American candidate is an absurd and insulting notion. Lewis Reed has received the support of Republicans in his ward in past elections because of his push for needed redevelopment and commerce. Building ONE St. Louis requires throwing off antiquated notions and working together across party and racial lines.

November 28, 2006 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger St. Louis Oracle said...

The Lou Wonk apparently breezed through the part of my post that said, "But it's hard to imagine that scenario [i.e., a contrived primary] playing out with these players. Though conservative for my personal tastes, I regard both Heitert and Browning as class acts." I wasn't insulting Browning. As to Heitert, I don't see him being bought out by any promises from Shrewsbury, but I do see a 50-50 chance that he decides independently to retire under these circumstances.

I agree that a contrived GOP primary would be ineffective in the 16th, but it has more to do with Shrewsbury's own strength there than the apparent popularity of Baringer. The 12th is in fact the ward where such a strategy would be most effective, but the 10th, 14th and 24th are wards where it could also reduce GOP crossovers.

Travis, drink decaf! I never said (or meant) that 12th Ward voters would not vote for an African American candidate. (They voted for Mike McMillan just last summer.) What I said is that they would support whomever they perceived as the more conservative candidate, which does not necessarily equate with support for redevelopment and commerce. In fact, redevelopment may well be unpopular there after fallout from the abusive use of eminent domain for the new Schnucks development at I-55 and Loughborough (technically in the 11th, but close enough to affect the 12th). Shrewsbury lives just a block from the 12th Ward line, and many voters in the 12th know him and like him. As I mentioned, he got good support there in his contest against Lyda Krewson. I probably should have mentioned that he also got good support there in his unsuccessful runs for comptroller, first against Virvus Jones and later against Darlene Green. The track record of those numbers indicate that Shrewsbury will benefit by a larger Democratic Primary turnout in the 12th and be disadvantaged by a smaller turnout.

November 28, 2006 at 4:17 PM  
Anonymous BillHaas said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

November 28, 2006 at 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Matthew Browning said...

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Now that we have that clear I am running because I decided to run. This decision was made well over a year ago, at the suggestion of several residents and current/former business owners. If anyone would like to ask me direct questions I would be more than willing to discuss the issues that led to my filing and my intentions should I be elected.

November 29, 2006 at 1:07 AM  
Anonymous BillHaas said...

Good luck to you, my friend; follow your dreams. Without taking a position on your race exactly, look forward to the possibility of serving with you. Best, Bill Haas
I was thinking of calling you to wish you well. Hope this will suffice for now.

November 29, 2006 at 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI Oracle: Travis Reems is doing work for Lewis Reed's campaign.

November 29, 2006 at 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^which explains why Reems could believe white conservatives would vote for Reed. Maybe Travis also believes Reed's Republican successor can win that Democratic primary too.

November 29, 2006 at 2:53 PM  
Anonymous The Lou Wonk said...

It is interesting that Mr. Reems never used the words "white conservatives" in his post, yet the most recent anonymous poster does use that phrase to categorize the Republicans within the city. What makes that statement by Anonymous even more interesting is that the statement is made just at the time Shrewsbury is conducting a push poll, in which race is heavily mentioned. It looks like the Shrewsbury camp is making race a seminal issue of the campaign.

November 30, 2006 at 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't Reed being backed by Slay? Isn't Callow still "in the same living quarters" as a female member of Slay's cabinet?

November 30, 2006 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger St. Louis Oracle said...

I don't believe Slay has publicly backed Reed, but he is rumored to be be behind him, because Shrewsbury's actions on the E&A board have been too independent for Slay. I understand that Slay's deputy mayor (there's a new title for the job now) Barb Geisman shares a home with Callow, who is a consultant for Slay and runs Slay's web site.

I'm beginning to believe, though, that we're giving Callow too much "credit" on this one. While this is the very kind of dirty trick I would expect from him, I think it's probably just dumb luck that it happened the way it did. Richard is probably enjoying the speculation about his involvement, adding to the aura that bad things "happen" to politicians who don't hire him.

November 30, 2006 at 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Jim Shrewsbury hiring Richard Callow"....

Now that's the funniest thought I've had all month!

November 30, 2006 at 9:55 PM  
Blogger Travis Reems said...

Richard Callow is in the employ of neither Lewis Reed nor the campaign. However, more importantly, the conspiracy theory that the campaign would endorse, support or encourage candidates in other races for the sole purpose of affecting the President's race is a complete fabrication. As for the rumors being spread by nefarious sources about the Mayor having endorsed the campaign, I have seen no such endorsement, but if he were to, he would be in very good company with a broad coalition of St. Louisans.

December 1, 2006 at 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notice that Travis specifically denied Callow's employment above. Callow is certainly working for Reed, it not "employed" by his campaign.

December 4, 2006 at 2:45 PM  
Anonymous jojo said...

Yeah, I don't think anyone thinks Callow is "employed" by Reed. Callow works in more elusive ways than that.

December 4, 2006 at 4:58 PM  

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