Bruce Franks Jr.

Bruce Franks Jr. watched election returns on August 2.

Photo by Lawrence Bryant / St. Louis American

In our endorsements for the August 2 Democratic primary, we offered this advice in Missouri House District 78: “In the crisis on the streets in St. Louis County and city following the wave of police killings of black civilians, it has not been easy – and often not possible – to hold the middle ground and continue to speak with credibility to both police and protesters. One of the very few people who have been able to hold that middle ground, without betraying either side, has launched a political campaign to oust a compromised incumbent from a North St. Louis political dynasty. We need people like him in the political process. We strongly endorse BRUCE FRANKS FOR MISSOURI HOUSE DISTRICT 78.”

Franks won the election against Penny Hubbard, 53 percent to 47 percent – tallying only votes actually cast on August 2. However, Hubbard won 78.4 percent of the absentee votes cast, making her the declared winner by 90 votes. Not for the first time, an electoral opponent of the Hubbards was crushed by absentee votes, and not for the first time, the challenger suspected foul play. This time, however, the challenger challenged the election results in court. After reviewing the evidence, Circuit Judge Burlison ruled, “The number of votes called into question exceeds the margin of the apparent victor and is of sufficient magnitude to cast doubt on the validity of the initial election.”

As a result, the judge ordered a special election in House District 78 on Friday, September 16. Polls will be open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. As for much-discussed absentee ballots, absentee voting in the September 16 election beings on September 8. The last day to request an absentee ballot is September 9. The last day to vote absentee in person in September 15. House District 78 spans the easternmost part of the City of St. Louis, from Old North to Dutchtown. It is essential that registered voters in this district know about this special election and get out to cast a vote on September 16. And once again, we urge them to vote for Franks.

In an excellent Post-Dispatch column, Tony Messenger reminded voters of the kind of state representative Hubbard has been. He related how she was lobbied by her own son, former state Rep. Rodney Hubbard Jr., to vote with House Republicans to overturn a gubernatorial veto in 2013. The bill, which the Hubbards helped pass into law, protected Doe Run Co. by capping damages that could be obtained against the company from people filing lawsuits over exposure to refuse from the lead mine industry.

“To us, this is a seat in government and proper representation for us,” Franks told The American. “For the Hubbards, it’s a family business.”

Note Franks’ use of the plural: “to us.” Though he does not come from an entrenched political dynasty, he is not in this fight alone. He is part of two activist movements, Ferguson and the Bernie Sanders campaign. Both were grass-roots efforts that spoke truth to power in an attempt to wrest some power from the status quo; both galvanized young people in numbers we have not seen engaged in our political process for a generation.

Though there is no way to know what exactly a political neophyte like Franks would do once elected, what he promises is promising. “I would be more transparent to the community,” he told us. “I would do more to educate the community about what my job duties are and empower the community. I would do more to inform the community about bills that directly impact us.” He understands that, as a minority in a minority party, his activist edge would come up against new political realities: namely, Republicans steering all the bills. “I know I would have to work with the other side,” Franks said, “but I would not do that at the expense of selling out our community.”

Again, we need people like this in the political process. We need them in elected office. We strongly endorse BRUCE FRANKS FOR MISSOURI HOUSE DISTRICT 78.

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