2014 Missouri primary predictions
The racial politics that has infected Democratic primaries in the City of St. Louis for so many years has followed migrating voters to St. Louis County. White South County Councilman Steve Stenger is challenging incumbent black County Executive Charlie Dooley in a knock-down-drag-out slug fest. Predominantly black townships in north St. Louis County are standing behind the incumbent, while whites in south and west county are backing the challenger. The only thing missing is a steel cage. The racial divisions in this Democratic primary taint the Democrat narrative that Republicans are the racists.
While lawn signs are unreliable predictors of outcome, the total absence of Dooley signs in a sea of Stenger signs in south county is notable. Adding to the racial cleavage is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, whose endorsement of Stenger follows its recent consistent trend of exclusively endorsing whites in Democratic primary contests against blacks. (The Post apparently hates Republicans more than blacks, as it regularly endorses the black candidates who defeat their endorsed primary opponents against Republicans in the general election.)
The elites in liberal white central county may decide the election, just as the elites in the central corridor wards decide the racial wars in the city. Republican crossovers will also be important, and the ones that do cross over will tend to be of the more moderate strain. As I noted before, the Dooley campaign seemingly went out of its way to offend those voters with a negative ad that compared Stenger to moderate GOP hero Mitt Romney. But central and west county crossovers will be limited by spirited Republican primaries to replace retiring Sen. John Lamping. State Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst and Councilman Greg Quinn.
I believe turnout will be the key, and that north county Democrats will turn out strongly enough to save Dooley. That result would also be most beneficial to Democrats in the general election, because black turnout in that election would suffer if Dooley loses, especially since there are no statewide contests at stake (Democrats failed to file a candidate for state auditor, the only statewide contest on the November ballot), and black incumbents from Rep. Lacy Clay on down are all running in safe Democratic districts. In contrast, a damaged Dooley would still likely win re-election in November, following the pattern of his win against well-financed Republican attorney Bill Corrigan against the grain of the Republican wave in 2010.
There is also a spirited contest for the Republican nomination. State Rep. Rick Stream has better qualifications than Green Park Alderman Tony Pousosa, but Pousosa has a dedicated grassroots following from Tea Partiers. Pousosa has lots of lawn signs in south county, while Stream's are hard to find. Even in Stream's base in Kirkwood, his signs are outnumbered by those for Deb Lavender, the Democrat (unopposed in the primary) seeking Stream's open seat in the Missouri house. Stream also suffers from the kiss-of-death endorsement of the Post. While Stream remains the favorite, I see that election as being close, and a Pousosa upset would not be much of a surprise.
The GOP primary in Lamping's 24th senate district demonstrates how conservative Republicans have grown in just the past couple years. The most moderate candidate is John R. “Jay” Ashcroft, namesake son of the conservative former governor and senator. Tea Partiers are attacking the younger Ashcroft for his alleged support for Medicaid expansion and a possible city-county merger. But conservatives are divided between two self-funding opponents. The conservative reputation of the Ashcroft brand should bring a primary win to that budding dynasty, but the general election in that swing district remains in doubt.
The racial wars in the City involve three contests. The hottest one (License Collector) doesn't actually have a white candidate, but features a black candidate (Jeffrey Boyd) who has solid support among most white Democratic officials and organizations, running against an appointed black incumbent (Mavis Thompson) who enjoys significant (but less unanimous) support from black Democratic officials and organizations. It is reminiscent of the 1997 mayoral contest, in which south side whites ousted black Mayor Freeman Bosley, Jr. by backing another African American, former police chief Clarence Harmon (“the white man's black man”). Boyd appears to be this year's Harmon. In a vanity battle of surrogates, Mayor Francis Slay is backing Boyd, while Gov. Jay Nixon stands behind his appointment of Thompson. Boyd has endorsements from all the pivotal central corridor wards and should oust Thompson.
The city contest that should be most interesting is one that Democrats are trying to hide. Veteran white Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter resigned over a nepotism scandal, but continues to seek a new term anyway. Both of her primary opponents are black, are not very appealing and lack funds to mount a serious campaign. The late-breaking scandal may give Edward McFowland some traction, especially in black wards, but former alderman Jimmie Matthews will split off a significant part of the vote. I believe city Democratic voters will look beyond the primary to the independent candidacy of appointed incumbent Jennifer Florida in the general election and stick with Carpenter temporarily in the primary.
The final race war pits school board member Bill Haas against state Rep. Kimberly Gardner. While this contest between two attorneys should merit more attention, the racial composition of the district makes Gardner a 2-to-1 favorite.