What St. Louis’ Controversial Mayoral Contest Says About Race in Local Politics

St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones

Last week, St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones lost the city’s Democratic mayoral primary by just 888 votes. Jones is an African American female, popular among young progressives. She lost to Lyda Krewson, a white woman who is closer to the party establishment. The race dredged up racial tensions in the region. 

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with Jones, as well as Dr. Jason Johnson, politics editor for The Root and professor of political science at Morgan State University, about the election, its aftermath, and what it might illustrate about racial tensions nationwide.

St. Louis is the fifth most segregated city in the country,” says Jones, and no one wanted to talk about the elephant in the room… Most of us who live here know that it’s… poverty, that it’s racism that are killing our region… I always said that racial equity was the center of my campaign.”

Though the Democratic primary has passed, Jones says that there is still more work to do.

We have to be more strategic in our approach,” she says, explaining that only ten percent of the St. Louis electorate voted in the recent election.

We need to keep people informed on how to advocate for themselves. The people that supported me were diverse. They were everything. We are trying to keep them together.”

Johnson says Jones’ defeat in the primary was also a missed opportunity for a city that has experience so much racial strife in recent years.

St. Louis became in many respects a more known international city after what happened in Ferguson,” says Johnson. “You had journalists from all over the world investigating that region and using it as a lens through which to view the United States. What would have been a better story economically, politically, and culturally for St. Louis than to elect an African American woman who is member of this new movement and activism as a sign that the city was willing and capable of turning the corner?”

Still, Johnson says, more people of color are participating in local politics across the country.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, in the wake of Ferguson, in the wake of the current president that we have, we have seen an increase — while it’s not enough — in turnout for special elections, we’ve seen in turnout for municipal elections… You’re seeing black political leadership combining and galvanizing and overall renewed interest in municipal politics.”

To hear the full conversation on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.

Image credit: City of St. Louis

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.


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