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‘Say no to business as usual’: Tishaura Jones kicks off repeat campaign for St. Louis mayor

‘Say no to business as usual’: Tishaura Jones kicks off repeat campaign for St. Louis mayor

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ST. LOUIS — A day after getting reelected as city treasurer, Tishaura Jones wasted no time Wednesday kicking off her long-expected repeat run for mayor of St. Louis in the coming March primary.

Jones, who narrowly lost a mayoral bid in 2017, announced her candidacy in an afternoon speech in Ivory Perry Park in the Visitation Park neighborhood.

“It’s time to say no to business as usual,” Jones told about 100 supporters. “We need to say yes to the St. Louis we could have.”

Jones indicated she wanted to devote more city resources to help lower-income residents and pledged to build a citywide coalition “from Penrose to Holly Hills, from Natural Bridge to South Grand ... and everywhere in between.”

“The education divide is clearer than ever, the housing divide is clearer than ever, the divide in tax dollar investment is clearer than ever,” she said.

She also said this year has been the most violent in years in the city “and the only answer (from current city leadership) seems to be to expand policing until it’s an occupying force in our neighborhoods.”

She also said that while she isn’t anti-development, the city puts too much emphasis on aiding major projects. “Where is the big investment in our city’s most important asset, its people?” she asked.

Jones in her talk stuck to broad themes. An exception was a pledge to create “safe places” for young people to grow, play and develop.

Jones will again be running against Mayor Lyda Krewson, who edged Jones in the seven-person 2017 Democratic primary and is seeking a second four-year term.

Alderman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, also has declared her candidacy for mayor. And Dana Kelly, a restaurant owner who ran unsuccessfully for license collector in 2018, has formed a campaign committee to raise money for a mayoral race.

Some people in politics also believe Aldermanic President Lewis Reed might run; Reed hasn’t commented on whether he’s interested.

New rules

But the next mayoral contest will be played under different rules than those in place in 2017.

City voters on Tuesday passed a proposition that will require candidates for mayor to run on a nonpartisan basis, with the top two vote-getters in the primary advancing to an April general-election runoff.

Under the old system, whoever won the Democratic primary cruised to victory in the general election in the heavily Democratic city. That’s what happened in 2017, when Krewson easily beat a Republican nominee and four other candidates.

Backers of the election overhaul measure, called Proposition D, gathered signatures to put it on the ballot partly in reaction to Krewson’s Democratic primary win in 2017 with just 32% of the vote.

Another new twist in the proposition passed Tuesday will allow residents to vote for as many candidates as they want in the primary.

That provision, called approval voting, is aimed at advancing candidates with broad support to the general-election runoff. Supporters also say it reduces the importance of lesser-polling candidates who peel off votes from the leading contenders.

Jones was an early supporter of Proposition D. She has said had there been such a system in place in 2017, she would have had a better chance of winning in a one-on-one runoff with Krewson.

“There’s no way of being totally sure,” Jones said in an interview last month. She said on Wednesday that she would be running for mayor whether the proposition passed or failed.

Ken Warren, a professor of political science at St. Louis University, said it’s difficult to predict how the new system will affect the race because the approval-voting feature has been used in only one election in a single U.S. city, Fargo, North Dakota.

“There are a lot of unknowns here,” Warren said.

But he said the more widely-used runoff provision likely means that candidates will appeal to the electorate as a whole in the primary rather than tailor their message to a smaller segment.

He said he understands why Jones favored the proposition since “she’d have two chances to do it” if she finishes second in the primary as she did in 2017.

Meanwhile, he said, Krewson — as she would have had under the discarded partisan system — will have the inherent advantages of incumbency that she didn’t have in 2017.

Warren also said it’s conceivable that a well-funded Republican could put together a serious race because such a candidate wouldn’t have to run with a party label unpopular with a majority of city residents.

Won treasurer’s race

Jones, 48, defeated Republican Robert Vroman on Tuesday to win her third four-year term as treasurer. She previously served four years in the Missouri House. She is the daughter of former Comptroller Virvus Jones.

Jones didn’t mention Krewson in her kickoff speech. But when asked afterward by a reporter what she would do differently, Jones said she wouldn’t continue to invest “in the arrest and incarcerate model of public safety” in which people are jailed “for being poor or sick or in need.”

In response, Jacob Long, Krewson’s spokesman, noted in an interview that the city’s population of pre-trial detainees has dropped significantly during her mayoral tenure.

Jones also said she would have acted sooner to shut down the city in response to the pandemic and to issue a mask mandate. And she contended that the city isn’t devoting enough attention to the disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases among Black residents.

Long said Krewson had worked closely with regional health professionals and St. Louis County on the timing of its orders. He said the majority of the city’s coronavirus spending has been invested north of Delmar Boulevard, where much of St. Louis’ African American population lives.

Jones also alleged that Krewson hasn’t worked closely enough with County Executive Sam Page, a medical doctor, on the issue “rather than trying to moonwalk away from his knowledge.” Long said Krewson continues to talk regularly and work with Page on the issue.

Most of the people at Jones’ kickoff event wore masks but stood closer together than the six feet recommended by health professionals.

Introducing Jones was Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler, who said he had considered running for mayor himself but decided what’s best for the city is a unified force behind Jones.

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