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, March 04, 2007

Preview analysis of Tuesday's St. Louis primary

The key to Tuesday’s contest for aldermanic president in St. Louis, as has been the case in many recent primaries, is turnout. The corporate media have given these city elections very little attention, and turnout will be low. That means that the impact of good GOTV efforts will be magnified in a smaller voter pool.

Incumbent Jim Shrewsbury starts out ahead with the power of incumbency that one earns with a good record. The contest appears once again to be following racial lines, which is helpful to both. That helps challenger Lewis Reed because being adopted by the black community as “theirs” gives the challenger greater credibility than a two-term back-bench alderman would ordinarily get. But the racial orientation probably helps Shrewsbury more, because white voters, especially those in his own southwest city base, tend to turn out in greater numbers than African American voters. Historically, African American citywide candidates don’t generally prevail over a serious white candidate in one-on-one contests like this one. (In Shrewsbury’s losses for comptroller to Virvus Jones and Darlene Green, there were additional serious white candidates competing for his votes.)

But other factors could tighten it up. Reed has been successful in attracting to his camp just about anyone who has ever had reason to dislike Shrewsbury. The people who don’t like Shrewsbury really don’t like him, and hatred is a better voter motivation than gratitude. While Shrewsbury is not complacent or overconfident, many of his casual supporters may be. The only people whose opinions count are those who actually vote.

Who will win: The likely low turnout makes the contest hard to call. While I think the contest will be close, I wouldn’t be surprised to see either candidate win by as much as 65-35. My call is a narrow win for Shrewsbury.

Who ought to win: I reiterate my endorsement of Shrewsbury set forth in the previous post.

4th Ward: Alderman O.L. Shelton’s incumbency and prior service as state rep have given him ample opportunity to build up an unbeatable collection of grateful constituents. But he hasn’t. He won the seat by plurality in a 4-way contest, and now faces a rematch one-on-one against Sam Moore, the leading challenger last time. North side politics are always contentious, and job security for incumbents there is more tenuous than elsewhere. I see Moore unseating Shelton.

6th Ward: Ordinarily a ward committeeman, especially one as well funded as Patrick Cacchione, should have an advantage. Not this time. His relatively conservative views (especially his opposition to abortion rights) are unpopular with many progressives in the ward, and he has two very substantial opponents. Christian Saller has greater and better experience, and is popular with preservationists, who are plentiful in the ward. Kacie Starr Triplett, granddaughter of the late Sen. John Bass and daughter of a popular former Big Red player, has a flair for politics that belies her youth (26), and has the best organized, most effective campaign. She has the additional advantage of being the only African American candidate in a ward with a slight black majority.

Who will win: Kacie Starr Triplett will win easily.

Who ought to win: While Ms. Triplett is a potential star (no pun intended) on the rise, the ward and city would be better served by the experience and policies of Christian Saller.

12th Ward: As I have written before, the city’s only Republican primary may have an impact on the Democratic contest for aldermanic president, by keeping Republicans in this ward from crossing over. Challenger Matt Browning’s inspiring story, seeking public service in a new arena after losing his law enforcement career (and both of his legs) to a drunk driver, makes him the most credible new city Republican candidate in years. Unfortunately, he chose to challenge 28-year incumbent Fred Heitert, the board’s only Republican and the only Republican to carry the ward in over a decade. Heitert has survived the ward’s political changes by being responsive to his constituents, bridging party divisions and getting along well with everyone. The 800-pound gorilla in the contest is the police vote. Large numbers of cops and their families live there, and neither candidate for board president is likely to attract them to the other primary. The St. Louis Police Officers Association formally endorsed Heitert, but many cops may find the loyalty of their “brotherhood” is stronger than their appreciation for Heitert’s legislative support for their agenda.

Who will win: Heitert relatively comfortably, but with an impressive minority for Browning, who could succeed Heitert when the latter retires.

Who ought to win: Heitert has served the ward well. Now that he has retired from his day job as an engineer, he will have even more time than before to serve his constituents.

18th Ward: A mismatch between African American incumbent Terry Kennedy and perennial Caucasian candidate Bill Haas in a ward where Haas’ CWE precinct is attached to an otherwise African American ward.

Who will win: Kennedy in the day’s most lopsided contest.

Who ought to win: In spite of his reputation as a gadfly, Haas would actually make a very good alderman. He is attentive to a fault. But he’s overmatched in this contest, in qualifications as well as in politics. While Mike McMillan is (and Lewis Reed wants to be) the “showboat” star of the black community, it is Kennedy that African Americans look to for leadership in serious matters. Kennedy deserves re-election.

20th Ward: For the second consecutive election, no African American candidate has filed for the seat that Mayor Francis Slay designed as a south-side black ward in the last redistricting. Alderman Craig Schmid is challenged by art gallery owner Galen Gondolfi. The main issue seems to be Gondolfi’s support for, and Schmid’s opposition to, more bars in the ward. A large non-voting non-citizen Hispanic community helps make this the lowest turnout ward in the city (although the Bosleys’ 3rd ward actually turned in a worse turnout last November).

Who will win: One reason that no African American has ever run for this seat is that African Americans are happy with Schmid’s representation. Schmid will win, but it will be close.

Who ought to win: I have had my disagreements with Schmid, but he’s the right guy. I admire his willingness to buck the archaic tradition of aldermanic courtesy when the matter directly affects the welfare of his ward. I also believe that Gondolfi is too tied to business interests, while Schmid will put the interests of ordinary people first.

22nd Ward: A re-match between Alderman Jeffrey Boyd and the man he unseated, Jay Ozier, in a ward with a history of voting irregularities. The smoke-filled rooms cloud the Oracle’s crystal ball, and I have no clue who will win. Neither should.

24th Ward: Another re-match pits Alderman Bill Waterhouse against former Alderman Tom Bauer, who was recalled over his support for eminent domain for commercial development and his use of SLAPP suits to silence opposition. Bauer, however, has tapped into an issue where Waterhouse is vulnerable, the latter’s support for the lease of Forest Park land to BJC, which is the subject of several huge lawn signs in the ward.

Who will win: Bauer will do better than critics expect, but Waterhouse will still win.

Who ought to win: Bauer is a nicer guy than his record makes him appear, but the SLAPP suits are a killer for me. Waterhouse makes President Bush look smart. No endorsement.

26th Ward: Yet another re-match, but with lots of twists. Alderman Frank Williamson should be a prohibitive favorite, and may be the only choice if litigation succeeds in removing challenger H. Lee Willis from the ballot at the last minute. This ward is the Clay family fiefdom, and Williamson has strayed. He and his predecessor, Irv Clay, are backing different candidates for board president, and Williamson also backed a different candidate than the organization in last summer’s hot contest for state senator. Williamson will still win. No endorsement.

The Post-Dispatch and Suburban Journals weren’t interested enough to endorse in contests other than the aldermanic presidency, and their reasoning in that race (one endorsement for each candidate by the commonly owned papers) was worthless. For an alternative set of thoughtful (though sometimes different) endorsements, check out Urban Review.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I very much enjoyed your analysis of the upcoming city primary election and your review of the history we tend to forget on each of the candidates, as they years pass. As ticked as I am about his lack of support BJC project, I agree that Shrewsbury should and will win.

Your insight into the ward contests was also a great read, since few of us have the time or attention span to stay up on each ward. I would like to add a few thoughts to you views on the 12th ward if I might.

Most cops I know in the 12th Ward have a Heitert sign in their front yard, if any sign at all. With the exception of the residency issues, where Heitert continues to follow the wishes of 12th ward voters, the police could not hope for a better friend and supporter than Heitert on the Board of Alderman.

Heitert is easy to talk with, returns call and takes pride in keeping up property values in the ward. I would be shocked to see him get anything less than 60% of the vote in tomorrow's election.

March 5, 2007 at 11:00 AM  
Anonymous TRouble said...

While I have to agree with you that there is nothing bold about the 24th ward primary; perhaps you might be able to shed some light on a question that has been puzzling me. Why would Tom Bauer fight hammer and tongs to get a job back that does not pay well, comes with numerous headaches and is definitely not part time(and I suspect that most don't want him there)? I don't get that. I never got to see the nice Tom Bauer. Shortly after I moved in to the ward was when the venom flowed from both sides.

I always try to vote in every election. I am going tomorrow and might just abstain from the Alderman vote. What a dud for the choices.

March 5, 2007 at 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oracle needs a new crystal ball-

March 7, 2007 at 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Called the trees correctly. Missed the forest.

March 7, 2007 at 9:03 AM  

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