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Incumbents fend off challengers in St. Louis aldermanic races as field narrows

Incumbents fend off challengers in St. Louis aldermanic races as field narrows

St. Louis City Hall

The Tucker Boulevard entrance to St. Louis City Hall.

ST. LOUIS — Incumbents on the Board of Aldermen will remain on the ballot in April, when voters will choose between the top two vote-winners from Tuesday in more than half of the city’s wards.

Current officeholders finished ahead of their opponents in seven races with more than two candidates. In one race on the city’s south side, a challenger garnered more votes than the incumbent, though the two will square off again next month.

The Tuesday primary election was the first to use a new voting system St. Louisans approved in November. Voters could cast ballots for as many candidates as they wanted; the top two vote recipients will face each other in the April 6 election. Of the 16 wards on the ballot Tuesday, six had only two candidates who were bound to face each other in April no matter the first-round vote total. Three aldermen ran unopposed.

Progressive push

In the 12th Ward, along the River Des Peres on the city’s southern border, incumbent Vicky Grass will face Bill Stephens, who works in youth services at the St. Louis Public Library.

Finishing just behind Stephens was Joe Rusch, who works in radio management and was endorsed by former 12th Ward Alderman Fred Heitert, the city’s last GOP elected officeholder.

Stephens, who won approval from about 36% of voters, was among four candidates being backed by Alderman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, and progressive organizations this year. The effort targeted the four races as a way to “flip the board” to what Green said would be a majority of progressive aldermen.

Grass, the former head of the politically influential Fireman’s Retirement System of St. Louis, won votes from about 49% of voters. She won a special election last year to continue the term of former Alderman Larry Arnowitz, who resigned after being indicted on federal charges of using campaign funds for personal expenses.

The progressive push also targeted the 17th Ward, the one race without an incumbent. They backed Tina “Sweet-T” Pihl, who has a master’s degree in urban planning and is the past president of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood Association, over Michelle Sherod, who had been an aide to former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. Pihl won votes from about 46% of those who cast ballots, while Sherod won approval from 69%.

Sherod was endorsed by retiring Alderman Joe Roddy, the board’s longest-serving current alderman who announced in October he would not run again, and the ward’s Democratic Party committee.

Two other wards identified in Green’s push had only two candidates who would have faced each other again in April no matter what. But the results from Tuesday offer a preview of that race. In downtown’s 7th Ward, incumbent Jack Coatar won votes from 59% of voters, compared to about 45% who gave at least one vote to his progressive-backed challenger, Shedrick “Nato Caliph” Kelley.

But in the 13th Ward north of Carondelet Park, challenger Anne Schweitzer, a public relations and political consultant endorsed by progressives, won approval from over two-thirds of voters, compared to just under 40% approval given to longtime incumbent Beth Murphy.

In her own race, Green easily cruised to a finish well ahead of her closest challenger, former Alderman Jennifer Florida, who ran against Green four years ago in an attempt to retake her seat. A third candidate on the ballot in the ward, Alexander Gremp, stopped campaigning because he is moving out of state.

North side races

Four races on the city’s north side featured more than two candidates, and incumbents managed to draw more votes than any challengers.

Alderman Sharon Tyus will face 1st Ward Democratic Committeewoman Yolanda Brown in the April runoff to represent the area near Kingshighway and Interstate 70. Brown ran against Tyus in 2013, and her daughter, Marissa Brown, ran against her in 2017.

In the 4th Ward, incumbent Dwinderlin Evans will face Edward McFowland, an inspector with the city of Wellston whose late mother, Daisy McFowland, held the seat for 12 years. Evans, a retired teacher and the ward’s Democratic committeewoman, was the chosen successor of former Alderman Sam Moore, who died early last year. She ran unopposed in a June special election to represent the area largely made up of the Ville neighborhoods.

In the six-way free-for-all in the ward near O’Fallon Park, incumbent John Collins-Muhammad finished ahead of his challengers. He will face Laura Keys, the 21st Ward Democratic committeewoman, who came in second.

And in the 27th Ward largely made up of the Walnut Park neighborhoods, incumbent Pam Boyd will face former Missouri Rep. Chris Carter, whose brother and son held the seat for over 20 years until Boyd won it 2017.

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