Tonya Finley-McCall

Tonya Finley-McCall talks to Steve Marshall while campaigning in the 5600 block of Kennerly Ave. Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019 for the aldermanic seat in the city's 22 ward presently held by Jeffrey Boyd. 

St. Louis Public Radio does not endorse political candidates and produces the region’s most non-partisan political coverage. Yet even its news report on the race for 22nd Ward alderman in the City of St. Louis in the March 5 municipal Democratic primary pointed out the evident weakness of the incumbent, Alderman Jeffrey Boyd.

“The results of the mayor’s race in 2017 showed Jeffrey Boyd could be vulnerable — he came in fourth in his own 22nd Ward — and a candidate has emerged to test that proposition, Tonya Finley-McCaw,” St. Louis Public Radio reported.

Indeed, the numbers Boyd put on the board just two years ago in the 2017 municipal primary show his unpopularity in his ward when voters are presented with viable alternatives. Only 226 people showed up at the polls to vote for Boyd in the Democratic primary, with Lewis Reed, Tishaura O. Jones and even Antonio French (who, like Boyd, has never been elected to citywide office) garnering more votes from Boyd’s constituents than Boyd did himself. Only 17.8 percent – less than one-fifth – of his constituents voted for Boyd for mayor. And though turnout in the ward was low at 21 percent, it was not that much lower than the overall citywide turnout of 24 percent of registered voters.

Looking at the impoverished 22nd Ward, it is not difficult to see why voters would welcome a change from Boyd, who was first elected alderman in 2003. In recent years, Boyd’s main focus in city government has not been servicing his constituents but rather draining power from the office of the treasurer, a seat for which Tishaura O. Jones also beat him soundly (by more than 3,000 votes) in the 2012 Democratic primary. The question is whether Tonya Finley-McCaw is a strong enough alternative to get change voters to the polls in a wintry municipal primary where president of the Board of Alderman is the race at the top of the ticket.

Outside of the ward, Finley-McCaw is best known by reference to her son. As St. Louis Public Radio noted, “Her son, Rasheen Aldridge, is an activist and the Democratic committeeman in the 5th Ward.” He also, perhaps more importantly, was the youngest member of the Ferguson Commission. Finley-McCaw herself has done most of her work in politics behind the scenes and on the ground as a field organizer. (She previously ran and lost to Tammika Hubbard for alderman in a special election and Penny Hubbard for committeewoman when she lived in the 5th Ward.) She does not have anywhere near the legislative experience, formal schooling nor glib way with words that the incumbent has.

However, she does have what one might call local political celebrity support in her effort to oust Boyd. Tishaura Jones – who beat Boyd in his own ward two years ago by 116 votes, nearly 10 percent of votes cast in the ward – has been on the ground canvassing for her, as has state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. She also has the support of Sheriff Vernon Betts and former fire chief Sherman George and, not surprisingly, her son, Rasheen Aldridge. (“He had better support me,” the young man’s mother said.)

Most importantly for the constituents of this neglected ward, she has heartfelt concern for her community and a grass-roots sense of how much the community is hurting. She knows how much people in the ward need leadership on the ground and better direct public service from their elected officials, starting with their alderman. “I want to bring community engagement and development to the ward,” Finley-McCaw told The American. “The people in the ward are disconnected from the leaders in the ward, and I want to bring that connection back.” We agree that her ward needs this change and believe that she can bring it. We strongly endorse Tonya Finley-McCaw for 22nd Ward alderman.

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