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Sept. 13 is likely date for special St. Louis primary to pick new aldermanic president

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ST. LOUIS — The city Election Board is expected Thursday to formally set a special primary for Sept. 13 to begin the process of electing a successor to Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, who resigned following his indictment on bribery-related charges.

Gary Stoff, the board’s Republican director, said the bipartisan board scheduled its meeting after City Register Amber Boykins Simms on Wednesday issued a formal notice of the vacancy, which called for the primary to be held on that date.

Under this scenario, the two top vote-getters at the primary would advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

So far only two candidates are in the race — Aldermen Megan Green, 15th Ward, and Jack Coatar, 7th Ward. At least one other potential contender is Alderman Cara Spencer, 20th Ward.

Whoever wins in November would serve until what would have been the end of Reed’s term next April. A separate election will be held then for the office’s next four-year term, preceded by a March primary.

The notice was issued following a legal opinion from City Counselor Sheena Hamilton which said the last few months of Reed’s four-year term should be filled at elections later this year.

Hamilton’s opinion came to the same conclusion as the Election Board’s own legal counsel, Stoff said.

Election Board officials had said last week that they wanted a detailed notice from city government stating that a special primary and general election should be called in this situation.

They said they wanted something beyond Reed’s resignation letter because of legal ambiguity in the city charter and ordinances on how to proceed. Normally the board doesn’t seek such a notice, which is outlined in state law.

Hamilton’s legal opinion was issued to the two declared candidates, Green and Coatar. The two aldermen had each requested the opinion; each released a copy to the Post-Dispatch.

Spencer said on social media Tuesday that she saw no reason to hold special elections for the post since someone will be elected anyway next April for the next four-year term.

“Our Charter says that a vacancy in Prez is filled by seniority — that has put Joe Vollmer in charge,” Spencer said on Twitter. “He has done an excellent job to steady the ship, serving in a refreshingly fair, unbiased and communicative manner.”

Vollmer, the 10th Ward alderman and the board’s vice president, became acting president when Reed stepped down but says he will serve only until a successor is elected.

While the charter doesn’t call for a special election when a vacancy develops in the aldermanic president’s position, a city ordinance says the post should be filled at the next city or state general election. In this case that’s Nov. 8.

Hamilton in her opinion said the charter provision regarding the vice president serving as acting president specifically references situations in which the president temporarily serves as mayor when there is a mayoral vacancy.

“As no Charter provision controls, the City Code and Ordinances must do so,” she said.

Spencer declined to comment further on Wednesday.

James Wilson, a former city counselor, had argued in letters to the Election Board that the board doesn’t have specific legal authority to set a special primary date. He contended that can happen only if aldermen set up a nomination procedure.

Wilson, who supported Spencer’s unsuccessful candidacy for mayor last year, said he wasn’t representing Spencer on this matter.

It’s too late under state law to schedule the special primary on Aug. 2, the date of the regular Missouri state primary.

Updated at 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 22. 

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