The St. Louis primary mayoral election is less than two weeks away on March 2, and it will determine the two top candidates who will advance to the general election on April 6.
The four potential nominees in the running are Andrew Jones, utility executive; Cara Spencer, 20th Ward alderman; Lewis Reed, St. Louis Board of Aldermen president; and Tishaura Jones, St. Louis Treasurer.
In an effort to promote voter registration and participation, Treasurer Jones invited Roland Martin, veteran journalist, political analyst, and host of the #RolandMartinUnfiltered Daily Digital Show to moderate a virtual town hall for a live broadcast last Friday, Feb. 19. The following day, Feb. 20, the pair engaged in a Stroll to the Polls canvassing at Ivory Perry Park.
Ahead of the live taping, Martin joined The American for an exclusive in-person interview to discuss why local elections matter; the aftermath of the election; and how to choose the most desirable candidate.
Martin’s show is no stranger to advocacy for voter participation in high profile races. He and his team spent the month of December in Georgia, covering the runoff U.S. senatorial elections involving Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Jones extended the invitation to Martin to come to St. Louis because of his long-time advocacy for voter turnout in local elections and his understanding of the impact of local elections on the health and well-being of a community.
“One of the things I constantly explain to our viewers and listeners is that local elections matter,” Martin said. “I told our folks about St. Louis’s mayoral race, Virginia’s Democratic primary, and the gubernatorial race in June. There are other races happening and we should be shining light on them so people can understand why local races matter.”
Martin strongly believes that competing in the mayoral election is not the end of the process; he emphasizes that winning and in return, implementing policy is the end goal.
“The emphasis is advocating for issues, connecting the dots, explaining public policy, elaborating on how all these variables are intertwined, and registering people to vote,” Martin said. “The next step after registration is mobilization, after mobilization is turnout. After turnout, the primary and the general election is over then it’s about governing. I want our people to know this is a multi-step deal.”
The average person may not be living and breathing political issues as much as Martin does, which can sometimes result in them being uninformed and not voting. To eliminate the belief that your vote doesn’t count, Martin states the first step in choosing the right candidate is recognizing what issues matter most to you.
“The first thing you should do is decide what three issues you care about and then compare them to the candidates to see their stances on them,” Martin continued. “We have to get people to understand the elections. Stop looking at them based upon personality, who sounds the best, who looks the best, it’s really based on what you care about as a voter.”
For the first time in St. Louis history, the city conducts a nonpartisan election, meaning that the top two vote getters, regardless of political affiliation, move forward to the general election. Growing up in Houston, Martin says the aforementioned governmental landscape was common to see.
“You’re going to have a candidate that espouses certain views that might line up ideologically with liberal, progressive, conservative, tea-party, right-wing, etc.,” Martin said. “The nonpartisan race forces people not to be so locked into who’s a Democrat, who’s Republican. It comes down to the issues and what we think is important.”
Martin wants our audience to keep in mind that the greatest mistake African Americans can make is not using their voting power.
“It’s the job of campaigns to go out to find people to talk to and engage in conversations about their issues,” Martin said. “I would encourage every person reading this to say I’m going to personally make sure that three people get registered and that they vote. If you do that, we can drive up turnout in a significant way.”