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Proposition D turned mayoral primary over, Reed says

CITY HALL – A new system of choosing candidates for office in the city turned the March 2 primary race for mayor upside down, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed says.

In that four-way “approval voting” race, City Treasurer Tishaura Jones and 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer advanced to a two-way runoff in the April 6 general election.  Reed and another candidate, businessman Andrew Jones, came in third and fourth, and thus did not advance.

Under Proposition D, approved in November, people may vote for as many candidates as they want. The two candidates with the most votes go forward. 

Reed wouldn’t say whether he might have moved forward in another system. But he did say the new system benefited Spencer.

Reed noted that the primary featured two well-known candidates, Tishaura Jones and himself, and an up-and-coming candidate, Spencer.

“What we saw happen across the city was people would vote for me as their first choice or Jones as their first choice, and then they would vote for Cara Spencer,” Reed said. So Spencer may have gotten more total votes as a second choice than she would have as a first choice.

 “Therein lies the major problem with Prop D,” Reed asserted.

He said that everyone from university professors to researchers maintained that the system should not be used for a decision of any consequence. It waters down the vote, Reed said. 

He acknowledged that it was important to put the vote behind and work with whoever’s elected. However, he said, Spencer is “just wholly, completely unqualified” to be mayor of St. Louis.

“I say that only because, you know, I’ve watched every vote she’s cast at the Board of Aldermen and … been able to see her understanding of that legislative branch,” Reed said. “And I’ve also had an opportunity to work with Treasurer Jones as a state representative. I had a chance to work with her in corporate America, had a chance to work with her all the years that she’s been treasurer, and we really can’t compare the two in terms of their ability to do the job Day One.”

Speaking of his own plans, Reed said he couldn’t predict whether he would run again for Board of Aldermen president when his term is up in 2023. If he won, he would take office for a fifth term.

“There’s so much between now and then I have to contend with,” Reed said. In the meantime, he said, the city will have to fix the election system it was left with Proposition D.

“By every measure, that’s just a mess of broken, inept, incompetent and bad system for any major city to use,” Reed said. “This is a broken system, and it needs to be repaired.”   

Looking ahead, he said a big thing the city would be dealing with was the approximately $500 million St. Louis will receive through the American Rescue Plan recently signed by President Joe Biden. That legislation is meant to help curb the COVID-19 coronavirus and bring back the economy. 

“We have to get the board bills moving as soon as possible so that we can be ready to accept the money,” Reed said. 

This gives St. Louis the chance to deal with the issues arising out of COVID-19 not just in the next year but in the next four or five years, Reed said.  

Ahead, Reed said, the city will go through some of the most divisive and challenging redistricting in its history with the reduction of the Board of Aldermen to 14 members from 28. 

“My focus is going to be getting the board and the city through that, in as clean and as unified fashion as possible, and that’s going to take a lot to get that done,” Reed explained. “You’re looking at cutting the board in half and doing that in a way where people aren’t feeling disenfranchised.”

Other issues Reed said the city must deal with include reducing crime and providing universal access to quality education.

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, 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 five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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