ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones and Alderwoman Cara Spencer will face off in April’s general election for mayor after St. Louis participated in its first nonpartisan primary election Tuesday.
Jones and Spencer made it out of a field of four candidates on Tuesday’s ballot, which also included Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed and businessman Andrew Jones.
The vote totals were as follows. The percentages are the percent of voters who voted for each candidate. The percentages may add up to more than 100% because voters could vote for as many candidates as they wanted:
- LEWIS REED | 17,162 votes | 38.53%
- CARA SPENCER | 20,649 votes | 46.36%
- TISHAURA JONES | 25,374 votes | 56.97%
- ANDREW JONES | 6,422 votes | 14.42%
Tishaura Jones has served as the city's treasurer for the past eight years. She was previously a Democratic committeewoman and a former state representative. She ran for mayor in 2017 but was defeated by Krewson during the primary.
Spencer was elected to the Board of Aldermen in 2015 and represents the 20th Ward. She cited her experience as part of the reason she’s running for mayor.
“As a member of the Board of Aldermen I’ve had a front-row seat to the dysfunction in our city government and to the daily tragedies in our city’s most ignored neighborhoods. But I’ve also been witness to the soul, kindness and goodness that abound in the people of St. Louis,” Spencer said.
On Wednesday, Mayor Lyda Krewson congratulated Spencer and Jones on Twitter.
"Congratulations Alderwoman Cara Spencer and Treasurer Tishaura Jones on your hard fought approval and advancement to the April 6 run-off election!
And thank you to the 44,000 (22%) St. Louis voters who made the effort yesterday to make their voices heard!" Krewson tweeted.
The two candidates for the general election were chosen with a new voting system, a nonpartisan primary election.
In November, 70% of St. Louis voters passed "Prop D," adopting nonpartisan elections for local races:
"Shall the City of St. Louis adopt an ordinance to:
* establish an open, non-partisan system for elections to the offices of Mayor, Comptroller, President of the Board of Aldermen, and Alderman
* enable voters to choose all the candidates they wish in the open, non-partisan primary
* allow the top two candidates to then compete in a runoff general election?"
It scraps voting by party: rather than requesting a primary ballot based on your affiliation, Republicans and Democrats are on the same ballot.
Along with the mayor’s job, this is how the comptroller, aldermen and board of aldermen president will be elected — though Darlene Green is running unopposed for comptroller, and the board of alderman race is not on the ballot this spring.
Along with the race for Mayor and Comptroller, 16 aldermanic wards were picking who would advance.
Nine of the 16 aldermanic races featured two or fewer candidates, meaning all the candidates advanced to the general election. In the other seven, the top two vote-getters advanced to the general election.
In interviews with 5 On Your Side Political Editor Casey Nolen, both candidates agreed crime is the number one issue facing the city – but they differ in how they would tackle the problem.
The following is a Q&A Nolen had with each candidate, and how they explained they would address crime and policing in the country’s most dangerous city if elected.
Tishaura Jones: I would say the number one issue facing the city of St Louis right now is our crime and public safety problem. And how I would address it is a community-first approach to public safety and that's simply putting the public back in public safety and bringing everyone to the table because our problems on crime and public safety don't stop at King Boulevard or the Mississippi River.
We have to approach it as a region, and that means using my existing relationships with County Executive Sam Page and St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell and our current Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to bring all of the necessary players to the table that's faith-based, that's civic, that's corporate, that's philanthropic and making sure that we adopt the mantra that we are our brother's keeper. Our problems and our destinies are linked, and we have to approach them as such because we didn't get into this overnight, or by ourselves, we won't get out of this overnight or by ourselves.
We need to declare gun violence as a public health crisis and address it as such, just as how we've addressed this current pandemic. We need to have that same laser-focused attitude of looking at the root causes like we did with the pandemic, we need to address that same sort of root cause, focus on gun violence and public safety.
Casey Nolen: There might be some people who live in more high crime areas of the city who would agree with that, in the broader picture, but might want something more immediate. Right now, they might want more police officers on their block. Is there anything in the nearer term, or is that more near term that I'm understanding it.
Tishaura Jones: I think, is more near term than people think. They say that, ‘Oh well, yeah that's good and, yes, we agree with that,’ but once we adapt the focus of looking at the root causes, then that is looking at the 20% of the people who caused 80% of the problems.
When Chief Hayden had a rectangle or a sort of polygon that talked about where crime was located, he was right, the crime was located in those areas, but our approach didn't have to be that same old arrest and incarcerate model. It's also bringing other tools and resources to the table.
What are the issues affecting that community? And how do we bring those resources to the table? Is it mental health resources? Is it childcare? Is it homelessness? Is it substance abuse and making sure that we are deploying the right professionals to the right call when we get calls in those neighborhoods? So it's not about just arresting and incarcerating, it is it's about providing the resources that our communities need in order to not just survive, but to thrive.
Casey Nolen: Do you think we need more police officers? Fewer police officers?
Tishaura Jones: I think we have enough. Honestly, I feel like we have enough and I think that we need to look at how our resources are deployed. The recent Teneo report talked about how there are certain jobs within our current police department that don't have to be done by licensed officers and could be done by civilians.
We've seen in other cities like Berkeley, California, where they have deployed regular citizens to do traffic stops instead of licensed officers, so again, you know, how are we deploying our current resources? And we need to take a look at that from top to bottom.
Casey Nolen: Just for those who might not know, the report you're talking about was commissioned and paid for by private dollars and it looked at both the city and the county.
Tishaura Jones: Yes, exactly.
Casey Nolen: That's interesting that you bring up the way they're doing things in other cities. Are there things other cities are doing better than St. Louis that you think we should be looking at and possibly adopting, and, if so, what?
Tishaura Jones: Like I said, the deploying civilian resources to different calls is definitely something we should be looking at. Focused deterrence was one program in Oakland, California where they saw a marked decrease in crime. So we should be looking at that, but I don't think that we should be having a discussion about just one solution. It's not just one solution. It’s not just Cure Violence, it’s not just focused deterrence, is not just body cameras, it’s how are we combining all of those in addition to making sure that we provide an environment where people can thrive, not just survive.
So how are we connecting people to jobs, good-paying jobs where they can provide for their families? How are we also investing in neighborhood development where people leave their homes in the morning, and the first thing that they see isn't a dilapidated building or buildings that are falling down around them? Or vacant lots that aren't being built up?
Just like investment in the central corridor and downtown was deliberate and intentional, disinvestment in parts of north St. Louis and south St. Louis was deliberate and intentional, so we should not be surprised that the population is leaving these areas. That our schools are closing because we don't have as many people living in St. Louis city proper as we've had in recent years. We have been on a consistent population loss since the turn of the century.
Cara Spencer: The number one issue by far is violent crime.
We have got to address violence in our communities. If we don't, really, frankly, nothing else matters. So, if elected mayor, I will put in place a comprehensive, my 10-step plan, the first year.
Look, we have to reach out to other cities. We are sticking out like a sore thumb, an anomaly in the nation for failing to address violence. And you know what? When I decided to run for mayor, I started reaching out, developing relationships with those professionals outside of St. Louis who've been successful in other cities that are dealing with this. And if elected mayor, I'll bring those practices and some of those people to St. Louis to help us join the rest of the nation in reducing violence.
Casey Nolen: What would you tell people who say, ‘I love the idea of big plans, but what can you do for me now?’ I want to be, when it gets warm, feel safe sitting on my porch. In certain parts of town, people don't feel safe.
Cara Spencer: We should be talking about violence from a two-pronged approach. We need to have long-term solutions that look at addressing the root cause of crime. And that includes mental health and conflict mediation and addressing the issue of poverty. But we've also got to address violence now.
There's a great analogy about a man coming in with a gunshot wound. We've got to get this guy a job and get him a house so he doesn't come back to the hospital. But the reality is, if we don't stop the bleeding now, he's going to die. We have to approach violence here in St. Louis in the same way.
That's why I'm going to bring in focused deterrence. It's a program that has been successful in cities across the nation, including Kansas City, Oakland, Boston. It was even successful here in a pilot program in 2012.
Focused deterrence allows us to focus on that small number of individuals responsible for violence and help them turn their lives around right now, give them the tools to do that and frankly, are harsh when that doesn't work.
It's a program that reduces recidivism immediately by connecting those resources and coordinating them. And it does sound costly. There is a cost associated with it, but it's very low compared to other programs. It's very cost-effective. And most importantly, it's effective immediately.
Casey Nolen: We have a unique, or a first-time, at least in modern history, situation for this election where we will not have Democrat and Republican labels with the candidates. But at the same time, I don't think you're shy about claiming kind of a progressive banner. Sometimes progressives say they want to defund the police. Do you think we should defund our police department? What does that mean to you and should we do it?
Cara Spencer: Look, I mean, I think it's clear that we cannot police our way out of this. We have more police per capita than almost any major city in the United States. And yet we still have the number one homicide rate. But what isn't always clear is that we can't do this without police.
When I had a gun to my head, it was terrifying. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for police responding immediately to that act of horrendous violence. In the same way, we need law enforcement to respond when our house is getting burglarized and there's a sexual or violent assault of some kind and when a woman is gunned down and shot, murdered in front of her kids in front of her house, like what happened just a few blocks from my house a couple of weeks ago. We have to have law enforcement that has the tools.
We have to work to address those root causes. But in the meantime, we have to make sure that our law enforcement is equipped to answer, and that includes being able to respond and receive those calls for emergency services. It is nothing short of, it's inexcusable that about 30% of our 911 calls right now are being answered by a recording. We need to get those so our residents that need emergency services can reliably summon them through a 911 system that's fully functional.
I represent a district for which I am the distinct and extreme minority. The 20th Ward is overwhelmingly people of color and has an income level much, much lower than the city average, which, as we know, is already much lower than the regional average. And so what I find here is that there's sometimes is that disconnect. And I always lean onto the community I represent. And that's where I don't always feel exactly aligned with the progressive way of thinking. I tend to really lean onto the citizens and what they want. And I have found that my community, the community I represent, does want unwaveringly to heal the divide between our police and our community.