Lyda Krewson, the Democratic nominee to be St. Louis’ next mayor, acknowledges the obvious: More than two-thirds of the city’s Democrats preferred one of her six rivals.
She also recognizes some tensions likely remain from the March 7 primary. “Campaigns are tough. A lot of skinned knees and scabby elbows after a campaign,” Krewson said. “But fundamentally, we’re all Democrats and we want to elect Democrats in the city in April.”
That’s why, with less than two weeks before the April 4 general election, she’s optimistic that more Democrats will move into her column. She’s also banking on some big-name help.
Krewson hosted about 70 of the city’s top Democrats – including U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed and outgoing Mayor Francis Slay – at a “unity breakfast” Saturday in midtown.
All six of Krewson’s primary rivals were invited. None showed up, with most citing scheduling conflicts or family trips.
Clay had endorsed Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed for mayor, while Nasheed had supported city Treasurer Tishaura Jones. Now, both are leading the call for party unity.
“If they’re not unified. They need to get unified,” Nasheed said. “I don’t care how mad you got.” Nasheed, of St. Louis, also noted that she officially endorsed Krewson last week.
Krewson hopes to soon meet with her ex-rivals, some of whom she’d have to work with closely as mayor. That includes Tishaura Jones, who lost by fewer than 900 votes.
“I’ve reached out to her a few times,’’ Krewson said. “I want to talk to her about what’s on her mind. How we can work together.”
The root of the problem: Turnout?
Jones told St. Louis Public Radio in a recent interview that she’s focusing on the future, not the past. Less than a third of the city’s voters showed up earlier this month for the primary, which Jones called “abysmal’’ and “a lesson learned for next time.”
“We need to see why people aren’t interested in participating on the local level,’’ she added, observing that local government often has a stronger impact on what happens in people’s daily lives than in Jefferson City or Washington, the state or nation's capitals.
Jones has yet to publicly endorse Krewson. She says she’ll focus her attention for the general election on defeating several ballot measures — especially Propositions 1 and 2, which would help raise money for a proposed soccer stadium.
No small stakes, Democrats say
Based on past elections, April’s will have an even lower turnout than the primary. To those city Democrats who backed a different candidate for mayor — and are thinking about casting a vote for someone other than Krewson — Nasheed said they need to recognize the broader stakes.
“Our last line of defense is on the local level,” she said. “And we have independents and Republicans on the ballot who are carrying the ideals and philosophy of Donald Trump.”
With Trump in the White House and the GOP controlling Washington and Jefferson City, Nasheed said local Democrats can’t afford to lose City Hall as well.
That said, Nasheed emphasized she’s not discounting the passion that goes into primary battles, which are common in St. Louis. One of the things that Nasheed said she likes about Krewson is that “she truly understands politics. She doesn’t hold grudges and she doesn’t take it personally.”
Of course, Nasheed is already setting up the next major Democratic fight at City Hall: She plans to run for president of the Board of Aldermen in 2019 – even if that means challenging incumbent Reed. “He’s been there long enough,’’ Nasheed said.
Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies