As expected, Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green (D-15th award) is running for the state Senate seat being vacated by term-limited state Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis). And, as expected, her announcement on Monday, October 14 sparked a heated conversation about a white candidate trying to win an historically black seat in a majority-minority district.
Two black candidates — state Rep. Steve Roberts (D-St. Louis), 31, and Michelle Sherod, a non-profit executive and former longtime staffer for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) — previously declared their candidacies. The 5th Senatorial District covers the eastern half of St. Louis City, mostly east of Kingshighway.
Nasheed, who has endorsed Sherod, attacked Green on social media when Green previously announced an exploratory campaign committee. She attacked again on Monday.
“The 5th Senatorial District seat represents the most underserved communities in St. Louis,” Nasheed told The American. “It’s a majority-minority district that deserves someone who has lived the hardships and struggles of its constituency — which is why it has traditionally been a black seat for nearly five decades.”
Green grew up in Oneonta, New York, some 850 miles from Missouri’s 5th Senatorial District, coming to St. Louis in 2005 to participate in the Coro Fellowship for Public Affairs.
Nasheed contrasted Green running in the historically black district where two black candidates are running with Green’s public support of the black-led protest movement for police accountability.
“Those who prominently and vocally proclaim ‘black lives matter’ should understand this and the importance of not diluting African-American representation in our city,” Nasheed said.
“Which is why it is so disappointing to see Megan Green, fresh off a Board of Aldermen race that saw her receive less than 8 percent support in North St. Louis because of her lack of outreach to and understanding of our community, launch yet another campaign where her only path to victory is centered around exploiting our city’s history of racial division.”
Nasheed and Green both ran against incumbent aldermanic President Lewis Reed in the March primary. In that race, Nasheed beat Green by 144 votes, or 0.4 percent of the vote; if either woman had thrown all of her votes to the other, Reed would have been beaten soundly. Green like to point out that she nearly matched Nasheed for votes despite being outspent 6:1; Nasheed counters that the black vote is notoriously harder and more expensive to get to the polls than white voters.
The “historically black seat” argument is not the only reason a number of people worked behind the scenes to try to persuade Green to stay out of this race and wait for a later opportunity. Two such Democrats declined comment to The American about Green’s announcement, though their argument and efforts previously were discussed with the paper.
According to this argument, after literally a century of two-party politics in St. Louis – those of white Democrats and black Democrats – there is a new, emerging coalition of progressive Democrats (not all black) versus conservative Democrats (not all white). For a progressive Democrat who is white like Green to contend in an historically black seat like the 5th Senatorial District, when there already is a black Democrat in the race embraced by Nasheed and many progressives (Sherod), is to put her own political ambitions over the viability of this new, emerging progressive coalition and the future of the city.
“Michelle may be embraced by some progressives, but she does not have a history of supporting progressive policies from the grassroots in St. Louis,” Green responded to that argument.
“Most people who I talked to had no idea who she is, and upon learning of her connections to Senator McCaskill, many were concerned that she’d take a moderate approach to public policy. The 5th Senatorial District is arguably the most progressive district in the state and needs representation who has and will consistently fight for everyday people.”
It thickens the plot that Green’s own Democratic committeeman, Tod Martin is working on Sherod’s campaign and he was McCaskill’s longtime deputy chief of staff. Further, Martin endorsed Lyda Krewson in the recent St. Louis mayoral race against Tishaura O. Jones, the candidate of choice for this budding progressive coalition. Green said that progressives in the ward have not forgotten that Martin left his Krewson sign up in his yard even after the ward endorsed Jones. Jones crushed Krewson in the 15th Ward, 1,438 votes to 690, a margin of more than 2:1.
Sherod, asked to comment about Green’s announcement, only answered (somewhat oddly) in the collective voice of her campaign committee.
“We always assumed Megan would run, but we’re with Michelle because she is experienced, dedicated and driven as well as proven to have what it takes to get the job done while working well with others,” stated the Michelle Sherod for State Senate Committee.
Green touts herself as “a proven fighter,” as opposed to the untried Sherod, but her fights have all been won and lost before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. There is, however, a black candidate in the race who has been fighting in the Missouri Legislature: state Rep. Steve Roberts.
“I am looking forward to the voters getting to compare our experience, accomplishments, and ability to work with others,” Roberts told The American regarding Green’s candidacy. “I’m the only candidate with experience serving in the Missouri General Assembly and what it takes to get things done. I was able to get more amendments added to bills than any other Democrat serving in the Missouri House, despite our party being in the minority."
Looming behind this campaign is a candidate who is not running it. Bruce Franks Jr. was considered the heir apparent to Nasheed’s seat when he abruptly resigned as state representative to address mental health issues. Though a proven fighter both on the streets and in the legislature, Franks currently is devoting his energies to rap battles.
“I would not be running if Bruce were running,” Green told The American, “as he and I have similar track records of fighting for police accountability, $15 hour minimum wage, and reproductive rights, just to name a few.”
Missouri Scout, a private news service covering politics in Missouri run by Dave Drebes, gets more oxygen than it deserves conducting small-sample landline polls that are as likely to mislead as to inform – one is reminded that Missouri Scout polls consistently had Tishaura Jones running fourth or lower in the mayoral primary and then she finished second, losing by only 888 votes. But in her campaign announcement, Green touts landline polling “has unannounced candidate Green entering the race with a 9 point lead over Representative Steve Roberts and a 21 point lead over the other announced candidate Michelle Sherod.”
If reliable, the poll supports Green’s contention that Sherod is not well-known in the district, despite her long association with McCaskill. On the other hand, she is raising the money that unknown candidates need to make themselves better known, raising more than $60,000 in the first two months of her campaign.