Slay Pulls Ahead of Reed in Early Returns for St. Louis Mayor

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS Mayor Francis Slay, in a culmination of years of campaigning and strategic political calculations, took a historic step on Tuesday night toward becoming the citys longest-serving mayor.

We have convinced the people of St. Louis to really make history, Slay told jubilant supporters who gathered at the Dubliner Pub on Washington Avenue downtown to claim victory.

Slay defeated Aldermanic President Lewis Reed by 10 percentage points in the Democratic mayoral primary. Slay was heavily favored, having spent 12 years as the citys mayor. A third candidate, former Alderman Jimmie Matthews, trailed far behind with just over 1 percent of the vote.

We ran a hell of a race, Reed told supporters on Tuesday night. We unified the city. Sometimes its not about the win, its about the path God set you on.

At Reeds campaign party at Carpenters Hall on Hampton Avenue, the mood was somber. As Slay appeared on television screens declaring victory, the crowd gathered, sighing and expressing disappointment.

Turnout hovered around 22 percent of registered voters. St. Louis was hit with a few hours of snow and freezing rain for parts of the day.

The battle between Slay and Reed was long in the making. The two citywide elected officials increasingly sniped at each other during public meetings. In recent years, Reed became critical of Slays leadership and policies, although Slays experienced campaign apparatus questioned whether Reed would actually challenge the mayor in earnest. He did. In October, Reed announced he would embark on a mission of change by running against Slay, who hadnt faced a significant electoral challenge since he first ran for mayor.

No St. Louis mayor has ever been elected to a fourth four-year term, and only one has tried.

Now Slay faces Green Party candidate James McNeely in the April 2 general election. Although Tuesdays primary only determined who will be the Democratic nominee for mayor, winning the Democratic primary has been tantamount to winning the general election in the heavily Democratic city.

On Tuesday night, Slay declined to discuss specifics of what his fourth term would look like.

Slay pledged to make St. Louis city even cleaner, healthier, safer, more fun, better educated, and just a better place for more people. Were going to make St. Louis a better place, a more inclusive place.

He pinpointed two things: creating more jobs and making every one of our neighborhoods a safer place.

New things, however, are on the horizon: The city will gain control of its police department from a state oversight board this summer. Slay has also said he would like to bring the city back into St. Louis County.

Reed, 50, hoped to capitalize on pockets of voters dissatisfied with Slays long tenure, including black voters, many firefighters upset over Slays handling of their pension system, and residents who opposed Slays support of a water consulting contract for Veolia, a company they fear could reduce water quality. …