There is a nice way to talk about Kacie Starr Triplett stepping down from the St. Louis Board of Aldermen – as she will do tomorrow, to accept a consulting contract with Behavior Health Network of Greater St. Louis - and then there is a not so nice way to talk about it.
To be nice, she is a young, striving, religiously devout member of our community who has been drifting steadily away from the hand-to-hand combat that is inherent to St. Louis politics and emerging as a faith leader who hosts a radio show and gives inspirational speeches. In January, she says, she embarked on a 30-day fast and emerged from it with the commitment to start a speaking ministry, Inspired Overflow, which then led to a radio show of that name 3 p.m. Wednesdays on 690 AM.
Politics is in her blood – her grandfather was John Bass, the iconic state senator, and her father John Triplett was a labor leader – and she has had some success in politics as her first career. But she is a young person and free to evolve. This Behavior Health Network position is particularly apt for her, given that she will be consulting on issues concerning homeless populations. Triplett has been an advocate for homeless issues at the Board of Aldermen, which can be a vote loser for an alderman, since homeless people are not much of a voting bloc and many voters see the homeless as a nuisance.
“This is a unique opportunity to make a tangible difference and help the region’s most vulnerable residents,” Triplett said of the new position.
To be not so nice, one could say Triplett committed political suicide in the August 2012 primary by aggressively opposing African-American candidates in key historically black districts, only to see both of her chosen candidates lose and lose badly. She supported her constituent and former employer Russ Carnahan over incumbent 1st District Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay. Carnahan, who ran a nasty campaign against a former family ally, was crushed by Clay. Triplett also aggressively supported Jeanette Mott Oxford over two black opponents (incumbent state Sen. Robin Wright-Jones and Jamilah Nasheed, who won the race) in the 5th District state Senate race; Mott Oxford came in dead last.
Had both of her candidates actually won, instead of losing and losing badly, then Africans Americans in the city of St. Louis would have been left with no black representation in the state Senate or the U.S. Congress. For the granddaughter of John Bass to actively work toward that outcome was unthinkable and pretty much destroyed her support in her own (now estranged) political family. Her political future, if she had one, was sure to be dominated by nasty primary battles where the only politicians who would have her back are candidates who lost their own elections and lost them badly.
“I am not bowing out or afraid to run for reelection,” Triplett told the EYE. “I have more than enough money in my campaign account to run a viable campaign. I have more than enough support from the business community and my constituents, and I have a strong legislative record to run on.”
Of course, in her career she has only ever run as a young African-American candidate with strong support from people who believe in proportionate political representation for African Americans. It would have been a very different experience for her in 2015, running against the opposition of people who believe in proportionate political representation for African Americans and feel Triplett abandoned the tribe when Carnahan attacked Clay in 2012. But the point is moot for now.
It’s a family affair
Whether or not going against the black majority in 2012 would have hurt Triplett in 2015, it’s true she would have run in a redistricted 6th Ward that has a larger black majority following the 2010 Census and the ward redistricting overseen by Lewis Reed, president of the Board of Aldermen.
According to the board, African Americans now enjoy a 60.44 percent majority among the 6th Ward’s 11,958 residents, and a 54.73 percent majority among ward residents age 18 or older. This was seen in the August primary, when Clay got 60 percent of the votes in the 6th Ward, beating Triplett’s candidate Carnahan 1,183 votes to 806.
With the strengthened black majority in the 6th Ward and evidence of a newly energized black electorate, city political watchers figured immediately that Triplett would be replaced by an African-American alderman, though non-black political hopefuls (like Martin Casas) also have sent up trial balloon emails and phone calls since Triplett’s news got out.
By custom, the ward’s committeepeople will have a strong say in nominating Triplett’s successor, and it so happens the committeeman is an African American who wants the job himself: Damon Jones, a political consultant with a job in a city patronage office who hails from a formidable local political family. His father is Mike Jones, a senior policy advisor to County Executive Charlie A. Dooley with a lot of political stickers on his luggage (state Board of Education, Midwest China Hub Commission, Empowerment Zone, chief of staff to Mayor Clarence Harmon, St. Louis 21st Ward alderman) and his mother is Robin Wright-Jones, the former state Senator for Missouri’s 5th District who was defeated by Jamilah Nasheed in the August primary.
Jason Rosenbaum of The Beacon staff did a nice report on Damon Jones’ interest in the nomination after a bit of dust had settled. You can see traces of the unsettled dust in Damon’s comments to The Beacon.
“My wife and I have discussed it over the last few days, and she’s been supportive of the effort for me pursuing it,” Damon told Rosenbaum. “So that was very important to me. To anybody to say that politics is not a strain on the family or can be a strain on family, they’re in denial or lying.”
Damon is neither in denial nor lying; in fact, he is saying something even more true than what he intended to say. Because the potential “strain on the family” was not so much between Damon and his wife as it was between Damon and his mother, a 6th Ward resident and out-of-work politician who put up her own trial balloon texts once the 6th Ward seat came open. Robin has good reason to think she has support in the 6th Ward, where she narrowly won in her recent reelection campaign for state Senate, with 720 votes to 713 for Mott Oxford to 589 for the district-wide winner Nasheed.
In this case, however, a mother’s love for her son was far stronger than a politician’s ambition to get back in the game, so Robin stood down and Damon stepped up.
6th Ward Committeewoman Ollie Stewart told The Beacon that she would support Damon Jones’ bid, too, so that seems to settle it – unless replacing Triplett goes straight to a special election, where (looking at the numbers in the August primary) a consensus black candidate would very likely win.
Nasheed to chair Black Caucus
State Senator-Elect Jamilah Nasheed has been elected to serve as Chairman of the Missouri Black Legislative Caucus during the upcoming legislative session. Nasheed said, “We are going to work hard to support measures that benefit our constituents and create effective public policy.”
The Missouri Black Legislative Caucus is a bi-partisan group of lawmakers that includes members from both the House and Senate. The Chairman is responsible for leading the caucus in backing legislation designed to advance the priorities of the African American community.
The most recent chair was state Rep. Steve Webb, who represents House District 74 in North County.