Democrats running in contested statehouse primaries in and around St. Louis are priming for Tuesday’s election, with candidates raking in last-minute cash, planting yard signs and lining up endorsements.
In more than a dozen heavily Democratic legislative districts in the area, Tuesday’s contests are likely to determine who goes to Jefferson City next year. Competitive primaries span from south St. Louis to Clayton to north St. Louis County.
In many cases, intraparty divisions are laid bare in campaign finance reports and endorsement lists.
In the 87th House District in mid-St. Louis County, for example, two well-funded candidates are facing off. Traditional Democratic groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri have endorsed both candidates. “I can’t wait till Wednesday,” said Alison Dreith, the executive director of the abortion-rights group.
The district includes parts of Clayton, Richmond Heights, Brentwood and Ladue. The winner will probably replace state Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, who is term-limited.
Newman is backing Ian Mackey, 31, of Richmond Heights, who previously worked as Newman’s campaign manager. Mackey has raised $58,000, reported $28,000 on-hand this week, and has won endorsements from state Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis, and former state Sen. Joan Bray.
Sam Gladney, 34, a labor lawyer, raised $112,000, reported $49,558 on-hand this week, and has the financial backing of several unions. Former Gov. Jay Nixon, among others, endorsed his candidacy.
Mackey said his priorities would be criminal justice reform and lowering Missouri’s mandatory school age from 7 to reduce education disparities.
Gladney said he wanted to direct more resources toward addressing mental illness, advocate for reproductive rights and expand early childhood education.
In the 84th District, which includes Forest Park and stretches to Martin Luther King Drive, two Democrats are vying to replace Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, who is running for state Senate against incumbent Sen. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis.
Opponents of making Missouri a right to work state are raising and spending more money that business groups that support the anti-union proposal.
Brad Bakker, 37, an employment lawyer, reported this week raising $86,209 for his campaign, outfundraising his opponent, Wiley Price IV, 34,who works in marketing.
Bakker said he would advocate for juvenile justice and cash bail reform, more community policing resources, and greater access to mental health services and substance abuse treatment.
Price, who is black, said he would represent the majority African-American district better than Bakker, who is white.
“If you’re a progressive, you know that it’s not progressive to run as a white male in a 68 percent black district,” Price said.
He said rebuilding the city started with education.
“The families are leaving because they have to teach their kids,” Price said.
Four Democrats are seeking to fill a seat vacated by Rep. Michael Butler, a Democrat running for St. Louis’ recorder of deeds.
LaKeySha Bosley, 25, is a Hyde Park resident and nursing assistant whose family, including the city’s first black mayor, Freeman Bosley Jr., has long been influential in St. Louis Democratic politics.
Her priorities would be to bring resources back to the St. Louis region, particularly revolving around education and good-paying jobs.
“For us to reduce crime we need to look at the root causes,” she said.
J.P. Johnson, 29, says he brings first-hand experience as a government consultant who has worked for Nixon, U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay and other officials.
“How many candidates have been a part of passing and negotiating minimum wage? Whipping votes? ... How many people have negotiated union contracts?” Johnson said, also citing his work on North-South MetroLink expansion and a measure requiring employers to provide leave for victims of domestic violence.
Also running for the seat are Democrats Reign Harris and Maxine Johnson.
Harris, 52, has said she was inspired to run for office after her son, football coach Jaz Granderson, was shot and killed in October in an apparent carjacking .
Heading into Tuesday, Bosley has $6,406 on hand, compared with Johnson’s $6,351.
Four Democrats want to replace Rep. Joshua Peters in the 76th District, which includes several north St. Louis neighborhoods, such as Mark Twain, Penrose and North Riverfront. Peters is not running.
Chris Carter Sr., who lost to Peters in 2014, is making a second bid. Carter’s son, Chris Carter Jr., was the district’s representative before he left to replace his late uncle, Greg Carter, on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
Damon Haymer, 40, a veteran and Democratic activist, also is seeking the job. Citing his work as a United Healthcare business analyst, Haymer says providing affordable, quality healthcare is a top priority, along with criminal justice reform, more investment in early childhood development and protecting prevailing wage.
Haymer raised the most money in the race — roughly $9,400 — with $2,045 in his coffers heading into the election.
Marissa Brown, 26, has promoted a “positive plan of action” that includes a push for job creation in north St. Louis, defense of women’s reproductive rights, Medicaid expansion and more education funding. Cydney Johnson, 27, a co-chair of St. Louis Democratic Socialists of America, lists prison reform, higher wages and more mental health resources as priorities.
The 82nd District, which encompasses a slice of south St. Louis from River Des Peres north to Tyler Avenue, former state Rep. Fred Kratky is challenging incumbent Rep. Donna Baringer, D-St. Louis.
Kratky, 76, a semi-retired real estate broker, served in the Missouri House from 2002 through 2008. His wife, former state Rep. Michele Kratky, served after him.
Baringer, 55, said she has been an effective Democrat in the GOP-led Legislature and would use her experience as an alderman during the 2010 St. Louis redistricting process to help Democrats in 2020, and said she works to keep constituents informed by sending out regular email blasts.
Kratky called for a holistic approach in addressing crime — starting by addressing poverty. Baringer said one of the reasons voters should choose her is because she can serve another six years in the House; Kratky can serve two more because of term limits.
In the 77th District, which runs from Forest Park to the Mississippi River, across some of the wealthiest and poorest areas of St. Louis, Rep. Steve Roberts is facing Kimberly-Ann Collins.
Roberts, a lawyer, said he would sponsor legislation creating a tax credit for companies that hire people with felony records.
“I just am trying to help those people out who need a second chance,” he said.
Collins, a public health professional, said she wanted to help the homeless. During the winter months, she helped open churches on the city’s North Side as emergency shelters.
At age 25, she said she was not concerned about experience.
“You don’t have to be a polished politician with a law degree,” said Collins, a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Campaign finance reports show Roberts has raised $47,191 for the race. He had $9,612 left to spend in the final week of the primary. Collins has raised $7,461 and had $3,906 on hand.
Rape accusations cast another cloud over Missouri Legislature.
In April 2017, a woman who accused Roberts of sexually assaulting her in a downtown bar filed a lawsuit over the 2015 incident. A jury trial in a civil case is scheduled for next year. Roberts was never charged criminally.
Rep. Cora Faith Walker, D-Ferguson, also alleged Roberts assaulted her when the two were candidates. Prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against Roberts. The two have since sued each other.
In the Ferguson-based 73rd District, three candidates are vying to take over for Rep. Courtney Curtis, a Democrat who is not running again.
Two Democrats have announced candidacies for term-limited state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal's seat. Another is "exploring" a bid.
Raychel Proudie, 34, has the backing of labor unions, as well as the abortion rights group NARAL.
The first-time candidate says health care, education and crime reduction are her top issues.
“If we don’t get a handle on crime in our area, then everything else is kind of by the wayside,” she said.
Both of her opponents also have union ties, with Lee Smith once serving as a business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and former Cool Valley Mayor Floyd Blackwell serving as a member of the Teamsters union.
If elected, Smith said he would advocate for older adults and expanded health insurance.
Blackwell said education and jobs are his two main issues.
Heading into the final week, Blackwell had $5,435 in his campaign chest, compared with $3,246 for Proudie and Smith’s $2,067.
In the city’s 81st District, which includes neighborhoods such as Holly Hills, Marine Villa, Dutchtown and Carondelet, Travis Estes, 47, of Marine Villa, faces Steve Butz, 59, of Holly Hills.
Butz, an insurance agent, describes himself as a Democrat who opposes abortion. He says he adheres to Democratic norms on most issues, and says Estes has unfairly “zeroed in” on his anti-abortion views.
Estes, a digital strategist, said that poorer parts of the district deserved greater representation in Jefferson City. He attempted to frame the race as an establishment-versus-progressive contest.
“If we want to move the party left,” Estes said, “we have to get involved and move it left.”