As ashriver alludes to in his most recent diary, there was some controversy over the Saint Louis Young Democrats endorsement of incumbent Mayor Francis Slay. The St. Louis American went further and called it corruption. Ashriver asked for a coherent story, but this is a little more like Rashomon; everybody has their own version of what happened.

According the ashriver/St. Louis American version, the YD’s are in the pocket of the Slay machine, and those in charge pushed ahead an endorsement to make sure no other candidates could swoop in and grab the endorsement. According to Martin Casas, the president of the Saint Louis Young Democrats, the organization couldn’t hold a regular meeting until the end of January because holidays got in the way each time, and with only two meetings left before the March primary, waiting any longer to get involved would have left them with little effect on the primary. I corresponded with several other members of Young Democrats, and while they did voice a great deal of respect for Martin and what he has accomplished in re-establishing the organization, some were uncomfortable with the decision to endorse Slay without a vote by the full membership, including supporters of Mayor Slay. I also heard from one member who is pro-Slay that he understood the group’s charter to forbid such an endorsement.

My own sense of the situation is that Martin is a guy who likes to make things happen. He’s played a big part in making sure the Saint Louis Young Democrats are very active and visible, and he wanted to continue that effort in the city primaries. Since the mayor’s race is the most visible race in the city (if not the most closely contested) he and other board members felt it proper to endorse a candidate and there was a broad consensus among the board that if anyone, it would have to be Slay. If there had been more time and more meetings not cancelled because of holidays, I believe that he would have brought in the respective candidates to make their case for an endorsement.

Another real issue is the definition of a member. As I understand it, the group reconstituted in August and held another meeting in September. I believe the rules for an endorsement require a member to have attended two meetings and to have paid their dues to be eligible to vote. This measure keeps candidates from packing endorsement meetings at the last minute with supporters who have no real connection to the group and no willingness to help with the work that comes with an endorsement. But with these rules, few aside from the board members were eligible to vote for an endorsement.

None of this is to defend him and the board. They will have to answer to the full membership in the next meeting, which should be very interesting indeed. Naturally, if enough members are upset about the endorsement or unilateral decision-making process, the disgruntled will either hang in there and remove Martin in a future election, or they’ll take their ball and go home, rendering the group less effective in the future. Most likely what will happen is that grievances will be aired and lessons will be proclaimed to have been learned on all sides, and the group will move on. In any event, I sure hope it doesn’t end up like the Amalgamated Order of Real-Bearded Santas.