As my last few diaries have indicated, I’m not exactly the world’s biggest Francis Slay booster. And I think there could have been possible scenarios where he was pretty vulnerable in the upcoming St. Louis Mayoral race. But at this point, unless some major unpredictable event occurs (like some a major scandal, some surprise candidate running as an independent, or the Post-Dispatch political reporters actually starting to do investigative journalism), I don’t really see how Slay can be beat.
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Looking at the other candidates, I see no promising paths to victory. I don’t think anyone believes that Irene Smith or Denise Watson-Wesley Coleman really stand much of a chance. Smith, fairly or unfairly, just isn’t taken very seriously due to the famous “peeing” incident, and Coleman has never run for office before. Also Smith, as far as I can tell, isn’t really even campaigning.
I actually like Green Party candidate Elston McCowan’s platform quite a bit, but it’s hard to know how well a party could do running the city that has absolutely no experience governing. Far more importantly, from the standpoint of electability, St. Louis is a pretty blue city and I think most people wouldn’t vote for a green party candidate no matter how good that candidate is.
So that leaves Maida Coleman. I know many people on this blog are not big fans of hers, but I think that given the right situation she would have had a great chance at winning. Much of the city’ black population, as you can see from this video of last year’s MLK ceremony, is seriously pissed at Slay for a variety of reasons, but most saliently his handling of the Sherman George situation. Since the city breaks down close to equally between black and white residents, she could have been close to victory already. But given Slay’s institutional support and political inertia, she probably would need some other key constituency in order to win.
I think there were a few promising possibilities. A lot of activists have never forgiven Slay for his role in the preemptive raids of activist homes like the Community Arts and Media Center in advance of a biotechnology conference in 2003. And a lot of urban enthusiasts were not happy about his cozy relationship with Blairmont, the company buying up large swaths of land in North St. Louis and letting them deteriorate. And, of course, the teacher’s union was peeved about the way the public schools were handled.
So I think Maida Coleman could have a very good shot at a one-on-one race with Slay. But even though she avoided the primary, where another Coleman was entered, I think her chances of avoiding a split vote even in the general election are too slim. Because of Slay’s institutional strength, in order for Maida to win, she would need to get almost all of the Slay opposition vote. But though I don’t think McCowan is strong enough to win a general election, I do think he’s strong enough to take a large percentage of the anti-Slay vote. He probably will get a majority of the anti-Slay activists vote. And he could gain substantial portions of both the black community and teacher’s union vote. Don’t forget that the Green party got 21 % of the vote in the last mayoral general election.
So basically, the anti-Slay vote will be split, whereas the the Slay/machine vote will go to you-know-who. Thus, I don’t see any way Slay could lose without some other serious change. I suppose if some other establishment candidate entered the race who could split the machine vote, that might make things interesting. But of course, the machine doesn’t work that way!