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Battle for the Board

DOWNTOWN—The Jan. 4 filing deadline for the St. Louis aldermanic races ended with 42 candidates in the running for positions on the Board of Aldermen. Each of the even-numbered wards and the office of the president are up for election this year. For the higher numbered wards, this will be their last aldermanic election as the number of wards will be reduced from 28 to just 14 after the 2020 census.

By far, the highest profile contest this year will be the race for aldermanic president. Incumbent Lewis Reed is seeking his fourth term as President of the Board. Though Reed has recently been under fire for failing to report campaign contributions during his 2017 run for mayor, he said he remains confident that he will retain his seat as president for another term.

“I enjoy the job and I enjoy public service,” Reed told St. Louis Public Radio in November. “We’ve gotten a lot of great things done, but there’s still a lot of work to be done, so I’m looking forward to another term to be able to address some of these systemic issues across the city.”

Running against Reed in the Democratic primary are candidates Jamilah Nasheed, Megan Green, and Jimmie Matthews. Nasheed represents district 5 in Missouri’s State Senate, and previously served in Missouri’s House of Representatives. Green currently serves as alderwoman of the 15th ward.

Green and Nasheed are both running on platforms that call for dramatic change in the city. Nasheed’s campaign platform includes reform of city policies regarding homelessness and proposes the development of an Underserved Communities Committee to support marginalized communities in St. Louis.

Green has made bold statements in the past about what she has suggested reflects a lack of accountability within the board.

“The petty politics, the backroom deals, that’s what’s been dominating the board,” she told the Riverfront Times when she announced her bid for the presidency. “We have to have somebody in that position who hasn’t been playing the insider game and who hasn’t been afraid to stand up to the status quo. That needs to be the role of the president, to set that standard, and I’m looking to bring that to the position.”

Matthews has been a candidate in several St. Louis races over the years, having most recently run for mayor of St. Louis in 2017. He also made an unsuccessful bid for president of the board of aldermen in 2015.

At least three wards are guaranteed to have new aldermen. On the north side, 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy and 26th Ward Alderman Frank Williamson have already resigned to take other positions in city government. On the south side, 24th Ward Alderman Scott Ogilvie announced months ago that he would not be seeking re-election.

The only incumbents to face no challenger this year are 16th Ward Alderman Thomas Oldenburg, who just won his seat in April 2017 in a special election, and 28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro, who won her seat in July 2017 in a special election.

Joy Leopold

Joy Leopold is a visiting assistant professor in Webster University's School of Communication. She graduated from the University of Miami with a PhD in Journalism and Media Management.

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