With less than three weeks until St. Louis elects its next mayor, both Alderwoman Cara Spencer and St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones are campaigning like never before as they head into one of the most competitive mayoral elections in the city’s history.
With the new voting system in the primary, the two candidates with the largest vote totals, regardless of party affiliation, moved on to the general election.
Because of this, April’s mayoral ballot now features two democratic candidates — Alderwoman Cara Spencer and St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones — instead of one Democrat (essentially guaranteed to win the general election) and one Republican.
This means the April 6 election is either candidate’s to win.
Federal COVID-19 funding
Whoever assumes office will have unprecedented monetary resources at her disposal when around $500 million in federal funds is distributed to the city beginning in mid-May as part of the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress last week.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said Monday that her office is “developing a framework of areas of potential investment” that include the revenue deficit, the housing crisis, derelict buildings, public safety upgrades and the 2030 jobsplan released in December by the Greater St. Louis, Inc.
Jones said the things that will be top of mind for her if elected mayor are renter and mortgage assistance, small business assistance, and money for homeless services.
“We intend to try to have a transparent and community-focused process and not just be top-down — but get some community input on how to spend the money,” Jones said.
The treasurer also said she believes it’s important that people are aware that the funds are going to come in two payments, with the first payment in about 60 days and the next one in about a year from now. She also intends to allocate a small portion of the money for oversight to ensure equitable allocation of these funds.
“This is an unprecedented amount that’s on its way to our city and we need a mayor that’s ready to disperse it with an eye towards equity and the experience to move quickly,” Jones said.
On Tuesday, Spencer released her own plan of how she would handle the $500 million if elected mayor. In that statement, she noted this investment in St. Louis is more than five times the national average, because the amount was calculated using the city’s poverty rates, unemployment and housing quality — and not just population.
“The enormity of the aid per capita is a real indication and acknowledgement of the challenges that our city does face,” she told The American. “That includes the issues that determined the federal package — poverty, housing stock, vacancy, a stagnant economy.”
Spencer’s plan calls for putting the money toward long-term goals such as lowering vacancy and inequality, increasing workforce development resources and reversing declining population levels and stagnant economic growth.
“If I’m elected mayor we’re going to use that money to invest, of course, in the shortfall that COVID caused our community, but we’re also going to invest it in long-term growth,” Spencer said. “And that looks like investing in those issues, those areas, those deficits, that really drove the enormity of the package itself.”
There are two upcoming televised mayoral debates planned. The first one will be broadcast on FOX 2 and KPLR 11 at 6 p.m. March 23.
The candidates will appear live and in-person at the television station’s studio. The debate will be moderated by anchor Jasmine Huda. In addition, the debate will feature a panel of local media representatives.
Jones said she is prepping for the debate with her team the same way she has since the beginning of this election, with a focus on crime and public safety, COVID-19 recovery and how to move St. Louis forward.
The second live debate was created through a partnership of The St. Louis American, 5 On Your Side, Nine PBS and St. Louis Public Radio. It will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on March 30 at the Nine PBS’s Bayer Studio and will be available across all stations and live-streamed on ninepbs.org, stlpublicradio.org and ksdk.com.
5 On Your Side political editor Casey Nolen, St. Louis Public Radio’s political reporter Rachel Lippman and Nine PBS’s senior producer Ruth Ezell will moderate the debate.
Spencer said she believes the importance of this federal package will be on viewers’ minds heading into these debates.
“I’m looking forward to it, I think the more people who tune in the better off the city will be,” she said.
Spencer and Jones will file their final pre-election finance reports March 29, until then only contributions of $5,000 or more are reported and available through the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Since the primary, Jones’ campaign has received $20,000 from PACs who previously supported Aldermanic President Lewis Reed in his bid to become the city’s next mayor. Reed came in third in the primary, having received just over 38% of the votes.
Those are TheLouPAC, which gave $10,000 to Jones' committee 314 Forward on March 8 and Leadership Counts, which contributed $10,000 to that same committee on March 10.
As for Spencer, consumer packaged goods company Post Holdings contributed $10,000 to her PAC, Gateway to Progress, March 5.