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St. Louis mayoral race holds lessons for black candidates

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- A generation after St. Louis elected its first African-American mayor, many in the black community are convinced that unchecked egos cost them the chance to regain leadership of the city.

Lyda Krewson, 64, a white alderwoman, defeated black city Treasurer Tishaura Jones by fewer than 900 votes in Tuesday's all-important Democratic primary. St. Louis is heavily Democratic, and Krewson will be the overwhelming favorite in the April 4 general election.

Krewson dominated in mostly white south St. Louis, while Jones and two other black candidates split the vote on the predominantly black north side, an outcome that holds an all-too-familiar lesson for black political hopefuls in major U.S. cities: Pitting African-Americans against each other can jeopardize the chances of any one of them winning against a strong white contender.

"Overall I felt like ego, patriarchy and sexism were the things that were leading the other candidates not to want to get out of the race," Jones said in an interview. "At some point we have to stop fighting each other and try to come together because now we are looking at four more years of policies that we all claim that we didn't want."

Krewson was the favorite all along and was endorsed by four-term Mayor Francis Slay, who is white and chose not to seek a fifth term. Jones, 45, surged over the campaign's final days, thanks in part to celebrity endorsements from the likes of actresses Jada Pinkett Smith and Issa Rae, and a scathing letter rejecting an interview request from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and decrying racism in the city.

In the end, Krewson carried 32 percent of the vote in the seven-person race to Jones' 30 percent. Aldermanic President Lewis Reed was third with 18 percent, followed by Alderman Antonio French with 16 percent. Reed and French are black. Blacks make up 49 percent of St. Louis' 316,000 residents, whites 44 percent.

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