Jennifer Joyce provided a municipal primary equivalent of the famous “October Surprise” that disrupts a presidential election last week when she rejected Alderwoman Lyda Krewson’s candidacy for mayor as too status quo in a city that, she said, needs to change.
“I believe that we need new thinking to move forward in St. Louis. That is my problem with Lyda Krewson,” Joyce posted on the Next Door social media site. “When you look at her supporters and advisors, it’s Groundhog Day. Sinquefield, Rainford, SLPOA (which, by the way, does not speak for most officers, IMHO). It’s all very, very establishment.”
Sinquefield is Rex Sinquefield, the billionaire financier who remains Mayor Francis G. Slay’s single largest campaign funder. Rainford is Jeff Rainford, who ran many of Slay’s campaigns and served as his first chief of staff, most notoriously during the Slay administration’s attack on then Fire Chief Sherman George. The SLPOA is the city police union, which endorsed Krewson.
Joyce, who did not seek reelection for circuit attorney and is currently traveling the country with her spouse, posted this analysis to a Next Door forum devoted to her South St. Louis neighborhood. But she soon deleted it. She would not speak to The American on the record about why she deleted the post, but she said it was not because she had changed her mind.
Krewson, who is alderman for Ward 28 in the city’s diverse Central Corridor, is the only major white candidate in the race. She faces three major black candidates – Antonio French, Tishaura O. Jones and Lewis Reed – as well as three perennial candidates in the March 7 Democratic primary.
License Collector Gregg F.X. Daly, who filed a committee to run for mayor then withdrew, has endorsed Krewson. Joyce is the most prominent and influential current or past citywide elected official (other than Reed, who is president of the Board of Alderman, and Jones, who is city treasurer) to reject the South Side’s consensus candidate in Krewson and call for change.
Joyce stops short of making an endorsement, though she does narrow the candidate field to two change candidates.
“That’s why I’m favoring Tishaura Jones and Antonio French,” Joyce wrote. “I’ve worked with both, and I can tell you they are both very smart and dedicated to making an impact on crime – which is a huge issue for me. Both would be a breath of fresh air in City Hall.
“I’ve also had great experiences with Lewis Reed and Jeffrey Boyd, but they may lack the level of creativity I’ve seen in Tishaura and Antonio. Just my two cents.”
Krewson did not respond to the American’s request for comment about Joyce’s post, but Reed did.
“I hope to win Ms. Joyce’s vote in the coming weeks,” Reed said. “I disagree with Ms. Joyce’s depiction of me in her post. I am the one who brought NextDoor – the very platform the comments were made – to St. Louis City to modernize communication between neighbors to help drive down crime.”
The American asked both French and Jones for a response in the same email, and Jones responded first.
“Jennifer Joyce is right. Neither Krewson nor Reed represents change. Between them, Lyda and Lewis have been voting at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen for almost 40 years. And they aren’t really that different from each other. It is almost as difficult to think of a controversial issue either one of them has led the fight for as it is to find major issues on which they disagreed with each other,” Jones responded.
“They are charter members of the status quo club. They have cast hundreds of votes together, always in support of the subsidies and abatements for projects in the city’s affluent neighborhoods that have benefited their donors. Both of them supported the failed and expensive bid to build a new Rams stadium. There is nothing in their histories to suggest that would change if either was mayor. Neither is much trusted by the progressive aldermen and their supporters, black and white, who have begun demanding attention for distressed neighborhoods and for greater citizen participation in deciding how and where city resources are allocated.”
French responded next, getting in a dig at Jeff Roorda, business agent and spokesman for the city police union.
“It's easy to see the vast majority of voters – not just Jennifer Joyce, but voters all over this city—are rejecting Lyda Krewson and jumping on board with our campaign. People want change. Lyda represents the exact opposite. She represents the ‘haves’ in a city full of ‘have nots’. She represents the status quo: more tax money for millionaires, while poor people see their neighborhoods crumble,” French responded.
“More talk about lowering crime, when actually only focused on downtown and the central corridor. More talk about police ‘training’ while standing with Jeff Roorda and ignoring issues of police accountability. Lyda lives in a bubble where, as she says in her campaign commercial, the biggest fights are about smoking bans. She knows nothing about issues of poverty, racism, homelessness. These are the biggest challenges our city faces. We need a mayor who understands these issues and isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves tackle the real issues.”