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Krewson won with deep support from her base - but few votes from north St. Louis

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Democratic mayoral candidate Alderman Lyda Krewson lunches at the Cedars after primary win

Mayor Francis G. Slay congratulates Alderman Lyda Krewson on winning the democratic mayoral primary on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, during lunch at the the Cedars at St. Raymond's . The Wednesday lunch is the place to be seen if you're in political circles. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS • Lyda Krewson’s narrow Democratic mayoral primary victory Tuesday relied on overwhelming support from her base in the central west, southwest and downtown areas — and virtually none in some northern parts of the city.

A Post-Dispatch analysis of Tuesday’s votes by ward found that, in her strongest areas, Krewson had some of the highest numbers of any of the seven candidates, racking up more than 40 percent downtown and between 50 percent and 60 percent in the Central West End and the southwest portion of the city. And the areas where she did best also were areas with some of the highest turnout in the city.


Map by Walker Moskop

But while Krewson’s support was deep, it did not extend to every region of the city. In several regions, she had the lowest vote percentages among the major candidates, not even breaking 5 percent in four north city wards. Second-place finisher Tishaura Jones, by contrast, didn’t dip below 12 percent support in any ward of the city — and she took fully a quarter of the vote in Krewson’s own 28th Ward.

The numbers could indicate that Krewson, the only major white candidate in the crowded field, has some outreach work to do for vast areas of the city outside her base, particularly in the heavily African-American north side.

In final unofficial balloting from Tuesday’s primary, Krewson won the party nomination with about 32 percent of the vote, ahead of Jones, who finished with a little over 30 percent.

Kenneth Warren, a St. Louis University political science professor, said Krewson should be congratulated for winning, but he called it “a weak victory.”

“Winning 32 percent of the vote is not impressive when you had double the money of the closest candidate and you had an endorsement from Mayor [Francis] Slay,” he said. “Sixty-eight percent of the voters voted against her.”

Lyda Krewson pct. of votes by ward

Map by Walker Moskop

About lunchtime Wednesday, just 14 hours after the election results came in, Krewson ate lunch with Slay at the Cedars Banquet Hall at St. Raymond’s Maronite Catholic Church.

Slay agreed that Krewson had a lot of work to do.

“She has to reach out to the other candidates and the constituents they represent in order to build a stronger St. Louis,” he said. “I’ve been the mayor for 16 years. It’s a diverse city, and it has been a continuous challenge.”

Krewson was in good spirits at lunch, shaking hands and taking pictures inside the packed dining room. She said she had already reached out to two other candidates: Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed and 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd.

Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner stopped by Krewson’s victory party Tuesday night; and Comptroller Darlene Green, fresh off her own victory Tuesday night, joined Krewson for lunch.

At lunch, she repeated a theme from Tuesday night’s victory speech and reiterated that she had run a positive campaign.

“That was very intentional. We didn’t attack the other candidates because we knew we are going to have to come together,” she said.

In the coming days, Krewson said, she will reach out to Jones, who came within a few percentage points of winning the Democratic primary.

In her concession speech Tuesday night, Jones referred to Krewson as the status quo candidate. Jones did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night and Wednesday.

“Name calling is not going to affect my outreach,” Krewson said Wednesday. “I understand how tense this all was. If we are really serious about bringing this city together, and really being one city, then we need to come together.”

She added that her outreach efforts would include delivering improved city services to north side neighborhoods and possibly holding town hall meetings or other forms of community input.

Krewson said she had a track record in bringing people together. “Don’t forget, I represent both sides of Delmar,” she said. “We have successfully bridged that gap in the Loop.”

Krewson, currently the city’s 28th Ward alderman, had been considered the front-runner for much of the campaign season, in part because she was the lone major white candidate and faced several serious African-American candidates. But the closeness of the race between her and Jones was the surprise of the night.

Eric Vickers, a longtime civil rights lawyer and member of the black political establishment, supported Jones in the primary. He said Jones had the balancing act of appealing to black voters and young, white progressives.

Framing a platform to speak to both groups without turning either away is the future of St. Louis electoral politics, he said.

Vickers added that Krewson could go a long way in bridging the city’s racial divide and the intra-party divide between traditional Democrats and young progressives, through diverse cabinet choices.

Krewson will face off April 4 in the general election against Tuesday’s Republican primary victor, utility executive Andrew Jones; Independent candidate Larry Rice, the operator of a controversial downtown homeless shelter; Libertarian candidate Robb Cunningham; and Green Party candidate Johnathan McFarland.

In heavily Democratic St. Louis, the general election is viewed as a formality, as the Democratic nominee has always won easily in modern times. Krewson would be St. Louis’ first female mayor.

In the primary, data show Krewson’s strongest wards had higher-than-average turnout, another indication of geographically concentrated support. Turnout citywide in the election was about 28 percent of registered voters but was significantly higher in wards where Krewson did best. Those include the two highest-turnout wards: the 16th, which includes St. Louis Hills, turned out at a rate of more than 41 percent; and the 28th, Krewson’s Central West End ward, which turned out at a rate of more than 38 percent.

Jones, the city treasurer, posted respectable numbers in wards across the city, including winning about a third of the vote through much of downtown and the central corridor. She broke 50 percent in the south-central 15th Ward, which includes parts of Tower Grove South, Tower Grove East and Benton Park West.

In post-election comments late Tuesday, Jones blamed her loss in part on other African-American candidates. “It hurt all of us,” she said.

Lewis Reed, the president of the Board of Alderman who initially was considered a strong contender in this year’s race after his mayoral run four years ago, came in a distant third behind Jones, at about 18 percent of the vote citywide. He slightly outperformed Jones in much of the north side of the city but lagged far behind her elsewhere.

Alderman Antonio French, who has a national profile because of his activism during the protests at Ferguson in 2014, came in fourth, with about 16 percent of the vote. His only ward win was in his own 21st Ward.

Walker Moskop of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report. Kevin McDermott • 314-340-8268 @kevinmcdermott on Twitter kmcdermott@post-dispatch.com

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