A judge has ruled that Connie Johnson does not meet the residency requirements to run for the 5th Senatorial District seat. I guess Kit Bond wasn’t a precedent, after all.
First Sam Coleman, the favorite by far to replace Rodney Hubbard in the 58th House District, was disqualified from the ballot for his failure to file his quarterly finance report on time. Connie Johnson’s and April Harris’ qualifications have been challenged in the 5th Senatorial District and the 63rd House District, respectively.
And now Juanita Head Walton, who’s challenging State Senator Tim Green in the primary, has been disqualified for delinquent tax payments. Who’s next?
PubDef has video of 5th Senatorial District candidate Connie Johnson’s presser yesterday, and it’s a doozy. The first part is Johnson delivering a statement in which she defends her residency and more importantly rips her opponents. Stalking horse? I don’t think so. Hubbard gets it for raking in contributions from Sinquefield and McKee, amounting to a third of his warchest. Wright-Jones gets a lashing for her attendance record while a real estate crisis hits St. Louis. The second part is the grilling Johnson gets from local reporters on her residency.
A couple of thoughts on this. First, as I’ve said before, I don’t expect that Rep. Johnson will be disqualified, because Missouri law has a very loose definition of residency, and further, that as long as Johnson runs a half-way decent campaign, nobody will care about this residency flap in the end. Several lawmakers in the St. Louis area won election with far more tenuous claims to their districts than Johnson has.
That leads me to my next point. Johnson did a good job in her statement of hitting her opponents hard, as two rivals nervous about her candidacy and eager to distract from the big issues. But she never directly mentions what those big issues are, nor does she mention what accomplishments her opponents are trying to distract voters’ attention from. I still haven’t heard her make a positive case for voters to choose her as a state senator. The most I got out of that statement was that she does indeed live in the district, and that she seeks to maintain the historical African American representation of the district. Well, she’s hardly unique in that race in either of those cases.
Pubdef’s videos, and Connie’s statement, are below the flip.
Thank you all for coming out this morning.
I have called this press conference because I, like most Americans, am tired of the politics of hit and run. I like most Americans am weary of the politics of distraction and dishonesty. And I like most Americans, believe that elected officials have a responsibility to serve their constituents-not themselves.
From the moment I entered this race my opponents have in one fashion or another panicked. Rodney Hubbard panicked and was able to convince his Right wing Republican Billionaire to kick in 50 more contributions–1/3 of his total and Robin Wright Jones panicked and filed a frivolous lawsuit in order to bring some light and attention to her struggling year old campaign for this Senate Seat.
For the record I am flattered by their fear and I appreciate their recognition of the impact of my candidacy. However, for the record, I am deeply concerned about their tactics and where these tactics take us as a community and as members of the Democratic Party.
Ten months ago I told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that I would not be part of events that would facilitate the elimination of an African American Senate Seat. Ten months ago I said: “As a statesman I have to look at the big picture and the big picture is the importance of preserving history and having African American representation in the 5th Senatorial district.”
As fate or providence would have it, four days before filing closed, the only white Candidate in contention decided not to run. There was now no danger of our community losing representation. So, I had a decision to make-do I now run for this Senate Seat? Do I run for a seat that has been historically, from Jet Banks to Paula Carter, located in the heart of North Saint Louis?
My decision was an easy one–of course I would run.
I would run because now I would be able to lay my head down at night knowing that not only would my Community be able to ensure African American Representation, but they would now have the choice of the most qualified, principled and credentialed African American Representation.
My decision to run was founded upon a love of community and a passion to ensure equal representation for all. These belief sets are also shared by the Democratic Party.
My opponents however have pounced upon my filing and attempted to use it as a means of distraction from the serious issues that confront our communities.
Downtown St Louis for the past 6 years under the direction and leadership of realtor Robin Wright Jones and the 63rd district, is in the middle of a real estate crisis-unfilled lofts, bankrupt developers, and a huge muddy empty hole in the middle of Ball park village. I have often wondered as Minority Whip, why Ms Wright Jones was missing so many important votes. I now see that she was quite busy-manufacturing stories and crafting frivolous lawsuits.
My other opponent is busy as well-missing votes, currying favor for the opposition and gathering right wing Republican cash.
Unfortunately, in the world of politics from Baraak Obama to Hillary Clinton, money does represent the bulk of the fuel that goes in to a political campaign. Operating on this political theory, my opponents hope that you will be so distracted by their lies and complaints about when I filed or where I live that their actions will hurt my fundraising efforts.
Well, I am here this morning to say enough. We as Democrats have a responsibility to address our serious issues–not manufacture, because we need money, political opportunities at the expense of the truth and at the expense of our constituents.
To this end I will have had my Attorney file the necessary motions that will put an end to this frivolous lawsuit filed by my desperate opponent.
Mark my words-I will be vindicated-these lies will not stand and I will be on the ballot in August.
Following up on last week’s news of 5th Senate district candidate (and current House Democratic Whip) Connie Johnson’s possible residency problems, the St. Louis American’s Political Eye has some backstory that connects the story to Johnson’s frosty relationship with Firefighters Local 73.
If you haven’t been following this story, documents have just surfaced that cast doubt on Connie Johnson maintaining a legal residence within her current House district, let alone the Senate seat she aspires to. And by “just surfaced”, I mean right after Johnson filed at the last minute for a run at the 5th District seat, somebody sent a packet of documents pertaining to her residence to several local media outlets. The campaigns of Connie Johnson’s opponents in the race, Rodney Hubbard and Robin Wright-Jones, have both denied involvement.
More below the flip.
Photo of Connie Johnson speaking at 2007 Take Back America Conference courtesy of Progressive Majority Flickr page.
In the American’s version of the story, Johnson rented out some portion of her house to a firefighter named William Keys (one of the few African American members of Firefighters Local 73), a housing arrangement that went sour when Keys allegedly did not pay $3000 in overdue rent. Keys apparently shopped the residence information to Local 73 in advance of Johnson’s candidate sit-down with the local. An interesting tangent to the story is that Local 73 supported Keys when then-Chief Sherman George tried to have Keys fired for not having a valid driver’s license, (it’s a job requirement for all firemen), and the sit-down with Local 73 resulted in Johnson’s refusal to accept an endorsement, should one even be offered, because of Sherman George’s ouster.
This new story just adds some more dimensions to an already murky situation. Did the local get bad info from a member and confront Johnson with it, erupting into a spat at the sit-down? Or did she broach the Sherman George situation at the meeting, and the local thought they had an ace up their sleeve with the residency card? Or was somebody else responsible for the oppo research?
As far as the effect of Johnson’s residency on the race, I don’t see why she would lose purely on the basis of this story, as long as she’s not disqualified. How many people remembered on the day of the 2006 primary in the 4th that Jeff Smith had just moved back from New Hampshire the year before to establish residence in the district? Even with his rivals reminding voters, Jeff Smith lapped the field. So as an accomplished politician and lawyer, it’s certainly not inconceivable that Johnson could overcome this. More problematic for her is the fact that her rivals have a huge headstart in endorsements and cash on hand, especially Rodney Hubbard.
The Thursday P-D has done an investigative report which shows that, for the last year, Connie Johnson’s been living outside her House district and outside SD 5, where she’s running against Hubbard and Wright-Jones in the primary.
If someone files a formal complaint, the Missouri Constitution would require that the Secretary of State not certify her for the ballot. But the Constitution also leaves some leeway, considering that Johnson says she’s been living at the new address to care for her mother, who has lupus. Therefore, the move isn’t permanent.
Still, the law does provide some flexibility when it comes to residency requirements. State courts have held that a person’s residence means their “true, fixed and permanent home,” one they can leave temporarily – for college, for instance – if they have the intention of returning.
But the home and utilities outside her district are in her name. On the other hand, so’s the home inside her district.
It’s a complicated situation, but it’s going to be a problem for her.
Photo courtesy of the Post-Dispatch
John Edwards at the press availability after the speech
As a strong Edwards supporter, it had not occurred to me that John Edwards might have a problem filling the Carpenters Union Hall. I badly wanted to see him speak here; naturally there would be many people like me. But early Saturday morning, at about 7:00 am waiting for the bus in single digit cold, I started to realize, “I am not a normal person.” Normal people don’t go out into the freezing morning cold to see a longshot presidential candidate; normal people sip their hot coffee in their warm living room watching morning TV. Better yet, normal people stay snuggled under warm blankets.
My fears were allayed when I arrived; there were already 30 people standing in line waiting for the doors to open 45 minutes later for a speech that wasn’t set to start until over 2 hours from then. That line quickly doubled and then tripled, and after doors opened, the room swelled with over 1000 people spilling into the foyer and into an overflow room in the back.
A row of speakers warmed up the crowd. Alderman Stephen Gregali, St. Louis American City Editor Alvin Reid, State Senator Tim Green, State Senator Wes Shoemyer, House Minority Whip Connie Johnson, St. Louis Carpenters Council President Terry Nelson, and Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell each in turn made fiery speeches almost equal in passion to John Edwards himself. The main points that came across were: “John Edwards can win a general election against even John McCain” and “John Edwards is a fighter for the middle class of America.” Rep. Connie Johnson made some of these points, but she emphasized the personal connection John Edwards has with Missouri, as he has come back to Missouri several times since 2004 to campaign for downticket Dems and for ballot initiatives like the minimum wage increase.
St. Louis American City Editor Alvin Reid after the speech
State Senator (and family farmer) Wes Shoemyer
Attorney General candidate Rep. Jeff Harris works the crowd. He is not endorsing a presidential candidate.
John Edwards himself did not disappoint. Making his way through a throng to the right of the stage, he took the stage to deafening applause. My colleague hotflash, who was also in attendance, made the following notes:
“I have never taken a DIME from a lobbyist or a special interest group.”
“When did our party become the party of big money? When did we become the party that takes money from drug companies? from insurance companies? from Washington lobyists? The candidate taking more money from Washington lobbyists, Democrat or Rep., is not a Rep. It is a Democrat. The dandidate taking more money from drug companies, Democrat or Rep., is not a Rep. It’s a Democrat. Let me just say this, as your candidate and your nominee for president, that will not be me.”
E referred to Obama’s praise of Reagan as pres of change. Reagan is “no example for change.” He did “everything in his power to break the organized labor movement.” he changed the tax structure to favor the wealthy. he deregulated industry as far as environmental laws.
(I don’t think he actually used Obama’s name for the following, but the reference was clear.) “we don’t really have to fight. You know, if you’re good to these people, if you’re nice,” you can get along with them. You can’t “nice these people to death.”
E concerned re global warming. Americans 4 % world population, use 25 % of its energy. Wants national cap on cargon emissions and make polluters pay.
Unlike Cl. and Ob. “dead against” building more nuclear power plants” and against building more coal-fired plants until technology to clean them up can be used.
He wants to ask Americans to be “patriotic about something other than war.”
We must conserve. You “can’t spend and innovate your way of of this problem.”
Wants to stand on White House lawn and actually say the word “union”.
Minimum wage is finally $7.25. Ought to be at least $9.50.
“The first year that I am president I will end this war in Iraq.” no more combat missions, no permanent bases
“Suppose we had a president that believed in the United States Constitution and the bill of rights.” He’d close Guantanamo. no more illegal spying on the Amer. people. “No more debate in America about what kind of torture is permissible.”
“NAFTA CAFTA and these kinds of trade policies, they exist only for the purpose of destroying Amer. jobs.” E would “close that tax loophole that gives tax breaks to Amer. cos. sending jobs overseas.”
Health care woman finds lump in breast. what is she supposed to do? There’s no chemotherapy in emergency rooms.
Exxon $40 billion profit last year–world record for any corp.
Health insur. co. exec made $200 million
Conclusion: His parents and grandparents would have done anything to give him the chance at a better life. Everyone in audience has experienced that. We must take the reins and offer that same possibility to our children and grandchildren.
For a fuller picture of the speech, this video of his speech the previous night in Oklahoma City is very similar:
All in all, it was an electric atmosphere. I got the feeling from talking to people in the crowd that the majority of them were already committed Edwards supporters, which led to an even more charged response than there otherwise would have been. The task now for the Edwards campaign is mobilize these people and use that energy to bring others on board.
Connie Johnson, who is still debating whether to throw her hat in the Fifth Senatorial ring, has been trying, literally since the day after the 2006 election, to get herself, Robin Wright Jones, and Rodney Hubbard together to discuss how they could agree on one of them to run. (If you need the background on why that would be necessary, see my last posting.) The three of them met for breakfast the day after the election to discuss that question. Obviously, they did not resolve it.
What she wants is some way for all of them to come out a winner, and what she means by that is that they would agree on which one of them would run, but they would also agree on something those who dropped out could expect. Johnson cited the example last year of Barbara Fraser and Jake Zimmerman, who both wanted to run for a seat on the County Council. Fraser was term limited out of the House, so someone talked Zimmerman into running for her House seat instead. He’s now a rep and she’s a Council member. That’s what Johnson means by everyone being a winner.
That particular solution wouldn’t work in the Fifth District, but if the person chosen to run were to win the race, he or she could use the appointive powers of the office to put the other two on whatever commission or board interested them.
But there was a glitch: All three of them were more interested in appointing the other two than in staying out of the race.
What they needed was a political intervention, and at one time or another each of them has tried to get that process jump started. So far they’ve had no success. Johnson said that she had hoped Representative Clay would step forward, but he didn’t, and eventually he endorsed Hubbard. The outgoing senator, Maida Coleman, could have taken the reins, but she didn’t, and eventually she endorsed Wright Jones.
That leaves John Temporiti, the state Democratic party chairman–who, as a matter of fact has been doing exactly that kind of duty in a number of other races. He’s had some success, but it can be a thorny role to play. So far, for example, all three Attorney General candidates stand firm about their qualifications, chances of success, and intention to run. Temporiti has not announced that he plans to mediate in the fifth senatorial race, but he would be the logical one to do it.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Villa are waiting about making a decision. Johnson points out that if there’s no intervention, she might as well join the race. There probably aren’t enough African-American voters in the primary to support two black candidates without handing the race to a white candidate, so she figures she wouldn’t be making the situation any worse.
The dilemma candidates face in this district is a direct result of term limits. It used to be that a person in the legislature moved on when there was an opening elsewhere or when he was ready to leave politics. Now, four representatives in one senatorial district will have to leave in the same year. If they love politics and want to stay in that arena, their options are severely limited.
And there’s one more kink created by this crowded primary. If Tom Villa joins the race and wins, that would be likely to affect the African-American turnout in the general election. Many will figure, he’s not our man, and he’s probably going to beat any Republican opponent anyway. That attitude is all well and good except that statewide, our party is going to need every Dem it can muster in order to squeak by in the gubernatorial race.
The good news about the fifth senatorial district in the city of St. Louis is that it will almost surely go to a Democrat. But an awful lot of people are fretting about how to keep that seat in African-American hands.
And in case you wonder why that matters, let me say that in one sense, it doesn’t. All four of the district’s representatives–Rodney Hubbard, Robin Wright Jones, Connie Johnson and Tom Villa–are term limited out next year. Two have announced they’re running. Two more are considering it, and one of those last two is white. But all of them would do a good job of representing constituents in that district.
Say what you want about Rodney Hubbard taking money from Rex Sinquefield and pushing school vouchers, wag your head in disappointment that Tom Villa opposes abortion and stem cell research. The bottom line is that all four of them want to do good for their people.
So what’s the big deal about having two black candidates–or maybe three if Connie Johnson jumps in–and one white man? The two–or three–African-Americans would divide the vote; and if Villa gets in, he’d almost surely take the seat. It wouldn’t be a tragedy, but consider the history of the city. Racial tensions loom large, in the past and at present. Villa, or any other white candidate, would make three white senators out of three in a black majority city. Not the best scenario for soothing those tensions.
I talked to Connie Johnson last week about her possible plans. As we mulled over the situation, she pointed out what great respect she has for Villa. He’s in his third political incarnation now. He was first elected to the House in 1974, and in those days before term limits, stayed long enough to become the Majority Leader from 1980 to 1984. After that, he went into city politics, became president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, and eventually made an unsuccessful run for mayor. After that, he dropped out of politics for five years; then came the third incarnation: in 2000, he was elected again to the House. Johnson points out that he knows more about the rules of the House than any other member–and has as much right to run for senator as anybody.
As for Johnson herself, she says that nobody should rule her out of the running and points with some pique at people who’ve told her that since she has a good job as a lawyer at Armstrong Teasdale, she should leave the field to Hubbard or Wright Jones, who don’t have fallback employment. As far as she’s concerned: “When did the state capitol become an employment agency?” She loves politics, loves working for the people in her district, and feels she has a right to run. After all, she says, considering all the glitches the legislature had last year from poorly written bills, they need more attorneys. And currently, the legislature is almost at an all time low. “On ten percent of the bills we pass, the next year they come back and we do cleanup.”
Johnson also points out that she has gotten six bills passed in her seven years in Jeff City, even though she’s in the minority party. And they haven’t been bills dedicating a library to so-and-so either. They’ve had substance. She got a bill passed to assist rape victims. Previously, the victims had to pay for their own rape kits, which cost $1200. Now the state pays. And rape victims are no longer required to take a lie detector test before they can testify. After all, victims of other crimes don’t have to take lie detector tests.
She also got a bill passed to aid DNA exonorees. Previously, such people were given a bus ticket and told they could apply to the courts for damages–but doing that of course would take time determination, and knowledge of how to go about it. Now, they receive $50 for each day they were incarcerated and social services to help them readjust to society.
So, in light of her qualifications and her desire to help people, she’s considering joining the race. Is she just adding one more good choice to the pot? Or muddying the waters? More on that question tomorrow.
Photos above are–top right: Connie Johnson; top left: Tom Villa; bottom right: Robin Wright Jones; bottom left: Rodney Hubbard