Messenger: Assessing the St. Louis mayor’s race based on first impressions

St. Louis Post Dispatch

In politics, first impressions can have lasting power.

So there is value, I think, in going back in time and examining the early records of the big three candidates for mayor of St. Louis. With apologies to the fourth, Andrew Jones, he’s never been an elected official. I’ve never written about him. So, for the sake of this narrow exercise, I’ll leave him out.

But in Lewis Reed, Tishaura Jones and Cara Spencer, city voters can examine long records to help them make their decisions. I encountered both Jones and Spencer early in their political careers, and Reed a little later into his. In all three instances, they came out on the winning side of an important issue when I first wrote about them.

My first encounter with Spencer was similar [to Jones], in that she was standing up for people whose political voice is nil: those dealing with drug addiction. In 2016, Slay signed a Good Samaritan Law sponsored by Spencer that sought to save lives of people addicted to opioids and heroin.

The law encourages people who are with somebody who has overdosed to call 911 so police or paramedics can respond. Most such first responders had started to carry Narcan, which, used quickly enough, can revive some people who overdose. The law discourages police from seeking charges against those who make the 911 call, even though they were likely using illicit drugs as well.

“Most heroin addicts don’t use alone,” Spencer told me at the time. “This legislation is about saving lives.”

The bill was signed at the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery on South Broadway. The founders of that facility, Chad Sabora and Robert Riley, have been leading the charge in St. Louis and Missouri trying to get such laws passed, though they often find deaf ears in the state’s Capitol.

Fast-forward to the mayor’s race, and first impressions leave a lasting one: In one of the biggest issues facing St. Louis, Jones and Spencer have been on the side of the voiceless in supporting the Close the Workhouse campaign. Reed, it seems, has been courting donors, such as the influential Carpenters Union, which is on the other side of the issue. The union has put $100,000 into a campaign account supporting Reed’s candidacy. That’s the same group that passed some of Sinquefield’s money to former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger before he ended up in federal prison, and it’s the same group that worked with Sinquefield and Reed, again, on trying to privatize St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

Jones and Spencer are on the other side of that issue, as well, which, if first impressions are meaningful, leaves city voters with some clear distinctions on March 2.

They can vote for the guy who has Sinquefield on speed dial, or one (or both) of the women who stands up for the least among us.

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