What's in a name? In electoral politics, an awful lot, and the general election for Missouri Secretary of State on November 3 is a name game to the utmost.
In the blue corner, representing the Democrats, we have a U.S. Army veteran running as the Captain America of voting rights. He knows that the most critical of this elected position’s responsibilities is to oversee elections and to ensure that all eligible voters are able to vote and that all votes are counted, and he is campaigning with the unwavering promise to offer all of these protections if elected.
Also, in an electoral climate and state where “career politician” is considered an insult on the campaign trail, this military veteran and crusader for voting rights has never held public office before. His leadership experience is in the military, a much-trod path to other forms of public service, and in the non-profit sector, which is an excellent place to learn the skills needed to manage a large government office.
That is his good news as a candidate, and indeed it makes him an incredibly impressive candidate for this important office. The challenging fact for his campaign is his name: Yinka Faleti. We think it is a beautiful Yoruba name from Nigeria, but taking Missouri for what it is, we must confront the fact that it’s an unfamiliar name that sounds, and indeed is, foreign. Remember that the last time a candidate with an African name was on a statewide ballot in Missouri, President Barack Obama lost to Mitt Romney by a quarter-million votes. Further, Obama never won Missouri, which means no Black candidate has ever won a statewide race here.
In the red corner, representing the Republicans, we have a career politician who has admitted that he is unable to perform the most critical function of his public office – protecting the rights to vote and to have your vote counted in an election year – and has no sense of urgency about making changes necessary to make sure he can offer these protections. Aware that his party leader, the president of the United States, is undermining the U.S. postal service, this career politician said then maybe people should not vote by mail. He said this despite the fact that Missouri voters have been provided with unique new provisions to vote by mail as a public-health protection since we are voting during a pandemic.
Speaking of the pandemic, he risked the health and lives of public servants by calling his staff back to the office a week after the governor's belated issuance of a stay-at-home order.
The bad news for this candidate, then, is that he is unfit for the office that he holds. The good news for his campaign – and it has always been John “Jay” Ashcroft's only asset – is that he bears a household name in Missouri. His father, John Ashcroft, served as attorney general, governor and U.S. senator in Missouri and as U.S. attorney general under President George W. Bush. The senior Ashcroft, among many other misdeeds, opposed busing to desegregate Missouri schools and supported Clarence Thomas’ appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. But this is Missouri, and his name is aging well. Both Faleti and the junior Ashcroft ran unopposed in their respective primaries in August, and Ashcroft received nearly 150,000 more votes.
We put the hard facts this way, not to discourage voters – Yinka Faleti would be a brilliant defender of elections (not to mention choices of ballot language for voter initiatives) in Missouri; you should vote for him – but to emphasize to this talented young man and, especially, the Democratic Party that they have nearly 150,000 votes and a gigantic gap in name recognition to close by November 3. There is hope. In a blue surge for change in 2008, a candidate with an African name running for U.S. president lost Missouri by only 4,000 votes; Faleti might catch a dump-Trump wave and stun Ashcroft.
As for qualifications and fitness for office, for what little they are worth in this state and country, we strongly endorse YINKA FALETI FOR MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE.