Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mayor 2017 – The Choice, Eric E. Vickers

    While there is in the black community of St. Louis a feeling of consternation, and even frustration, over the fact that in the race for mayor there are four notable black candidates vying against only one notable white candidate, it should not be assumed that the black vote will be split.  For it does not necessarily follow that because of this the white candidate will be the next mayor.

     If there is one thing the history of elections in St. Louis has proven, it is the untruth of that saying that whenever there are two or more blacks in a race the “black vote will be split.”  When the first black mayor, Freeman Bosley, Jr., was elected in 1993, there was the thought then that because another formidable black candidate, Steven Roberts, was also in the race that neither could possibly win.  Despite attempts to get Roberts to pull out, he remained in the contest as a strong candidate.  Nevertheless, Bosley received the overwhelming vote of the black electorate, which was the base that propelled his victory.

     In the 2012 senate race for Missouri’s  5th Senatorial District, the incumbent black Senator, Robin Wright-Jones, was challenged by black State Representative Jamilah Nasheed.  With these two black candidates competing against each other, a white State Representative, Jeanette Mott-Oxford, then threw her hat in the ring, reasoning that a split black vote would enable her to win by having the bloc vote support of whites.  Nevertheless, Nasheed was victorious. 
     These elections exemplify that the black electorate will, despite several black candidates being on the ballot, gravitate in mass towards one black candidate.  Blacks have shown themselves as capable of choosing one black from among several in a political contest as they are in choosing one cereal from among the many brands lining a grocery aisle.   And they are as capable of sorting out and choosing one to back through the voting process as, alternatively, one being chosen for them by a political kingpin.  

In viewing the 2017 election, of all the capable black candidates running for mayor, only one provides the black community the opportunity to make history – Tishaura Jones.  If she is able to couple the strength of the black vote – measured by turnout and being united around one – with her white progressive following, she will become the first African-American woman to serve as the City’s mayor, and will be one of the rare few black women ever elected to that office in this country.
     If the black community wants a black mayor, it thus has to choose between City Treasurer Jones and the black President of the Board of Alderman, Lewis Reed, who unsuccessfully ran four years ago for mayor in an election where the overall voter turnout was 22%, with white voters comprising about 55% of those who turned out to vote.  Although blacks outnumbered whites among the voting age population, they apparently were not inspired to turn out to vote for the black mayoral candidate. 

     The black community will also have to choose between Jones and two black aldermen, Antonio French and Jeffrey Boyd, and although both have noteworthy accomplishments, neither has ever won an election for a city-wide office, nor shown electability outside their respective aldermanic wards.

     I support Tishaura Jones.  Both because she is a stellar candidate, and because she is cut from the same cloth as of one of this city’s legendary fighters for African-American people, her father, former City Comptroller Virvus Jones.  His struggle strengthened her and us.  Our struggle is to choose to elect her mayor.

Eric E. Vickers

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