The Ethical Society of Police, a minority organization of about 215 St. Louis city officers who are almost all black, voted at their February 25 meeting to endorse Patrick Hamacher in the race for St. Louis circuit attorney.
At the meeting, three candidates – Hamacher, Kimberly Gardner and Steven Harmon – gave presentations to the society and members voted immediately after. About 10 percent of the membership attended the meeting. Eleven votes went to Hamacher, six to Gardner and three to Harmon.
Hamacher is white, and both Gardner and Harmon are black. When asked if it was unusual for their organization to choose a white candidate, the society’s president Heather Taylor said, “It is probably the first time ever. But he won that vote outright.”
Taylor said they didn’t ask their members why they chose to vote as they did. However, from her point of view, she feels that Hamacher got their attention by the personal examples he used. He talked about one young man who he could have prosecuted and recommended hefty jail time. But he chose to help him get on his feet, and now he is in college.
“We know growing up in violent communities, a lot of these young men carry guns because they feel they have to,” Taylor said. “When they are young and they have the potential to go on and live a better life and this is a lesson for them, it’s good to be given that example of a success story.”
She said he also gave examples of putting people in prison. Hamacher began his legal career as an assistant circuit attorney for St. Louis city in 2011. Now he is a prosecutor in the office’s armed offender unit, where he focuses on homicides, assaults and robberies.
The members knew all three of the candidates. Gardner was a prosecutor with the circuit attorney’s office as well before she became a state representative. Harmon was a police officer. Taylor said they feel that either of the other two candidates would also be good in that position.
“It would be a win-win,” she said.
She said they have gotten some backlash for their endorsement from the community, but she stands by their voting process.
“Fairness doesn’t have a color, and everyone has to be held accountable,” she said. “We were fair with our vote.”
Mary Pat Carl, a fourth candidate with a huge lead in fundraising (and the endorsement of the retiring incumbent, Jennifer Joyce), was not considered for the endorsement because she had not requested an interview, Taylor said.
However, the Ethical Society conducted its candidate interviews only two days after candidate filing opened. Candidates have until March 29 to file for circuit attorney or any other seat on the August 2 primary ballot.