Michelle Sherod – longtime staffer for former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill – is entering the race for the open seat to represent Missouri’s 5th Senate District, where state Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) is term-limited.
She has the strong endorsement of Nasheed, who speaks as if the office belongs to Sherod.
“Michelle is going be a great addition to the Missouri Senate,” Nasheed told The American. “I know she will hit the ground running after working on policy issues for over 20 years on the state and federal level. Michelle is very methodical and pragmatic; those are the qualities you need to get anything done on the state level.”
Sherod also comes strongly endorsed by St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones, who lost the crowded 2017 mayoral primary by just 888 votes or 1.6 percent of the vote.
“I believe Michelle has been called for such a time as this,” Jones told The American. “This seat has a long history of smart, bold, progressive, female leadership, and Michelle's education and experience as an attorney, an accountant, and a small business owner is just what our region needs.”
Sherod brings with her campaign strong support from her years with McCaskill, as well as her legislative experience in the office. Tod Martin, McCaskill’s longtime, savvy deputy chief of staff, is working on Sherod’s campaign for state Senate.
Sherod told The American she is well suited to serve a diverse district that includes, she said, “parts of North City, the Central Corridor, a mini-Silicon Valley, South City and Downtown.” For that reason, she said, “We need someone who is comfortable in the boardroom as well as in the community walking the streets. I think I can help get things done.”
Sherod, who grew up poor – “I cleaned houses with my mom when I was 12” – is licensed as both a lawyer and accountant. She currently runs her own legal and accounting firm, ALL Solutions. Previously she worked as an accountant with Deloitte and Touche, Ernst & Young and Southwestern Bell, and as an attorney with Sandberg Phoenix & VonGontard. She serves as president of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Sherod enters the primary race knowing she has one primary opponent, state Rep. Steve Roberts (D-St. Louis), and suspecting she will have another, Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green (D-St. Louis). Roberts already has announced his campaign, along with a string of previously reported endorsements. Green told The American she has opened an exploratory committee and will have an announcement soon.
“I sat down with Megan a couple of times. I sat down with Steve once,” Sherod told The American. “People have to follow their heart. I followed mine.”
Taking into account two demographic factors that influence voting, if Green runs in the primary, then there would be two black candidates (Roberts and Sherod) and one white, as well as two female candidates and one male candidate. Green’s candidacy, in this three-way field, could split the black vote and give the 5th District seat – historically a black seat in the Missouri Legislature – to a white progressive.
Green faced criticism for running for president of the Board of Aldermen this March when a black incumbent, Lewis Reed, faced a black challenger in Nasheed. Though Green was criticized by some for helping preserve the status quo with Reed’s victory, Nasheed only beat her by 144 votes or 0.4 percent of the vote.
However, in recent years two black female candidates – Jones for treasurer and Kimberly Gardner for circuit attorney – won citywide offices against white candidates in crowded fields. There is some evidence that traditional binary thinking about voting demographics in St. Louis may be outdated.
Jones was diplomatic about the possibility of Green joining the primary.
“I would never ask someone not to run Jones told The American. “This is a democracy, and we all have a right to run for a seat if we believe we are the best candidate. I wish her the best and, if she decides to run, look forward to seeing her on the campaign trail next year, as I will be up for re-election for my third term as treasurer.”
Sherod counted Maxine K. Clark, CEO of the Clark-Fox Family Foundation and founder, Build-A-Bear Workshop, among her supporters in a conversation with The American, though when asked about the race – with the possibility of Green in the field – Clark was noncommittal.
“I don't know enough at this moment to comment,” Clark told The American. “Michelle has a great reputation and is a solid business person – financially and legally savvy. Megan is a hard worker. I want a candidate that will represent a broader majority of St. Louis and the region.”