2021 St. Louis mayoral candidates

(St. Louis mayoral candidates, clockwise, top left: Tishaura O. Jones, Andrew Jones Jr., Cara Spencer and Lewis Reed.)

Cara Spencer, St. Louis alderwoman and mayoral candidate, began airing an ad Tuesday attacking Aldermanic President Lewis Reed’s political record, an effort Reed called a “sad old racist trope.”

The 30-second commercial claims Reed has led the city in the wrong direction for more than 20 years. In true political ad fashion, grainy footage of Reed is used in addition to several shots of various news articles — one in 2020 about St. Louis reaching its highest homicide rate since 1993, another questioning his push to privatize the airport and one about Reed receiving an ethics fine. 

“The Reed Record? Corruption, cronyism and crime that’s out of control,” a narrator says at the beginning.

The commercial also features a man and woman who talk about their personal connection to crime. They call for change, asserting politicians have had their chance and failed.

“St. Louis is in the fight of its life and I’m Cara Spencer and no matter where you live in St. Louis I am committed to keeping you safe,” Spencer says at the end of the ad.

In a media release sent a few hours after Spencer announced that ad on Twitter, Reed condemned the ad as a racist attack. 

“This is a sad old racist trope — blaming Black leaders for crime,” Reed wrote. “The fact is I lost my brother to violent crime, and most recently my nephew was shot, killed, and burned in a dumpster. My own son has even been held up at gunpoint outside my own home. I know the toll violence is taking on our community. Shame on her for running racist, divisive and offensive ads.”

Reed goes on to argue he’s spent years working to fight crime and Spencer has “done absolutely nothing in her time in office.”

“The darkened, grainy image and racial fear tactics she uses are reminiscent of racist political ads that were designed to paint a frightening image of candidates of color,” Reed wrote. “This type of ad is from a time most of us hoped we had long gotten past.”

Spencer released a statement in regards to Reed’s comments about the ad.

"Elections are about choices, and voters need to be informed to be able to choose,” she wrote. “This ad is about Lewis Reed's record over 14 years in the second most powerful office in the city, his failure to improve St. Louis during that time, and his work for a failed plan to sell Lambert Airport to benefit his contributors. I challenge him to point to anything in the ad that is not rooted in fact." 

St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, who is also running for mayor, told The St. Louis American this kind of public scrutiny is the downside to being a political candidate.

“And as someone who has been repeatedly attacked by some in the media, I definitely can empathize with how he feels, because I can't tell anybody how to feel about how they perceive an ad and his perception is 100 percent his,” Jones said. “… I totally expect someone to put an ad about me and stuff that they don't agree with how I handled different things in my political career. And that's the unfortunate part about when you're running for the top spot in the city — you're gonna get blamed, whether you had a hand in it or not, for the current state of things.” 

Utility executive Andrew Jones, the fourth candidate on the mayoral primary ballot, said he had not seen the commercial and was focusing on his own campaign.

“This doesn’t surprise me, when you don’t have a winning strategy, or tactics, to turn the city around I guess it gets reduced down to personal attacks and I just don’t want to be involved with personal attacks — I’m here to help the city,” Andrew Jones said.

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