“It was my zeal,” Jamilah Nasheed said, explaining the most stunning upset in a Democratic primary that many in the black political community are already describing as “historic.”
Nasheed pulled off a shocking victory in her challenge to incumbent Robin Wright-Jones in Missouri’s 5th Senatorial District on Tuesday night, despite the presence of a white progressive opponent, Jeanette Mott Oxford. Nasheed won 8,249 votes (40.5 percent), with Wright-Jones surprisingly coming in second with 6,176 votes (30.3 percent) and Mott Oxford trailing with 5,945 (29.2 percent).
“It was my drive that won,” Nasheed said. “When I got knocked off the ballot, I could have quit. I kept driving.”
Nasheed’s candidacy was successfully challenged on residency grounds, putting her temporarily off the ballot, though a Missouri Supreme Court ruling later returned her to the ballot. The high court cited a clause in the state Constitution permitting Nasheed to run in the district, where she does not live, because of technicalities in the legislative redistricting following the 2010 Census.
Though Nasheed’s fundraising went dead in the water while she was removed from the ballot, her legal challenge also kept her name in the headlines and ultimately gave her a public legal victory. Also, her fundraising was strong early, with help from Republican Speaker of the House Steven Tilley, and late, with funding from a PAC connected to billionaire Rex Sinquefield.
Sinquefield’s support – which has had a toxic effect in some St. Louis elections – came too late to be used against Nasheed, who says she owes Sinquefield nothing.
Nasheed also benefitted from one of the most unlikely endorsements in modern St. Louis political history: that of Mayor Francis G. Slay.
“In my mind I can still see a picture of her holding a ‘Recall Slay’ sign,” Slay told The American. “But she has been there for the city on the local control fight and the fight to keep the city earnings tax. And as I have gotten to know her better, I have come to respect her and I think she will be an effective state Senator for the city’s interests.”
No Republican filed in the district, so Nasheed’s primary victory will send her to the state Senate. Wright-Jones called her last night to offer her assistance.
“Robin said she wanted to sit down with me and help me adjust to working in the state Senate,” Nasheed said, “and I thanked her for that and for her service.”