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Tishaura Jones’ No. 1 election rank isn’t surprising, UMSL professor says

CITY HALL – Tishaura Jones’ first-place finish in Tuesday’s primary election for mayor was no surprise to UMSL political science professor Terry Jones.

Terry Jones
Terry Jones is quick to point out that Tishaura Jones has done well in citywide elections for her current position, as city treasurer, and that she came in a close second in the Democratic primary in 2017.

“With the new approval system, it was not a surprise that she finished on top,” the UMSL professor said. That system, approved by city voters in November, allowed people to vote for as many candidates as they wanted in the city primary. The two top vote-getters advance to the city general election.

Terry Jones said it was a surprise, but not a big one, that 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer finished second. Progressive candidates have done well in the city, he said. Cori Bush’s defeat of longtime U.S. Rep. adLacy Clay in the August 2020 primary election for U.S. representative  was an example of that, he said.

The fact that Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed came in third was a minor surprise, considering the fact that his campaign was well funded, Terry Jones said. “It was a very disappointing performance from his perspective,” he added.

Reed didn’t come in first in any of the 28 wards. Tishaura Jones finished first in 18 wards, whereas Spencer was on top in 10 wards. 

Terry Jones said he didn’t think it was a rejection of Reed as an individual and noted that he’d been elected Board of Aldermen president more than once.

“I think it is a rejection of so-called establishment policies or pro-large business policies, such as the privatization of the airport,” he said. 

For now, Tishaura Jones is the odds-on favorite to win the general election on April 6, and not just because she finished first in approval voting, Terry Jones said. 

“She not only does extremely well in the northern parts of the city of St. Louis, but she also does very respectably in the central corridor, as well as in many parts of south St. Louis, particularly those that are east of Grand Avenue,” he explained.

Whoever wins the race, the agenda of the next mayor will be about the same, because both have similar policies, the UMSL professor said. 

“Both of them are individuals who will seek expert assistance, not simply from within the St. Louis metropolitan area, but from throughout the country, “ he said. “I think as we look at issues such as public safety and how best to deal with the crime problem in the city of St. Louis, and for that matter in the larger metropolitan area, you’re going to see a greater use of experts in that process.”

Speaking of other contests, Terry Jones said he wasn’t surprised that 14 out of 15 incumbent aldermen came out on top in the elections in their wards.  

As long as aldermen have been doing their jobs, they are in a good position to continue, Terry Jones said. “Once you’re elected, and you use those powers wisely and frequently, you’re in a very good position to be re-elected.”

In the new approval system, candidates run as nonpartisans and not under a party banner. But that wouldn’t necessarily weaken the party, Terry Jones said. 

“There are a lot of other races and other offices that are very much dependent upon processes that lead through the party,” he said. Those include “county” offices such as treasurer and recorder and Missouri offices such as state representative and state senator.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in St. Louis, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of four books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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