The police union announced its approval of the bill on the final day of the legislative session. The block of opposition vanished. But the bill was held up by a group of senators who wanted cuts on historic and low-income tax credits in return. The bill died before reaching the floor for a vote.

The votes are there, though, and just about everybody thinks passage is inevitable, either in September's special session or in the 2012 session.

"I don't see any real reason why it wouldn't pass, given that all the folks on both sides have worked out the issues," says House Minority Leader Mike Talboy.

State Representative Jamilah Nasheed: I'm 
black before I'm a Democrat.
Jennifer Silverberg
State Representative Jamilah Nasheed: I'm black before I'm a Democrat.
State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal is one of many Democrats who question Nasheed's loyalty to the party.
Jennifer Silverberg
State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal is one of many Democrats who question Nasheed's loyalty to the party.

"I think I have the votes to do it," says Senator Joseph Keaveny, sponsor of the Senate bill.

"As the bill stands, I'm OK with it," says Chappelle-Nadal.

"With each passing day it looks more and more likely," says Roorda. "I can't find anyone who thinks this is unlikely."

"I'm not aware of any opposition to the bill at this time," says Slay.

St. Louis politics are not defined by Republican versus Democrat, because there usually aren't any Republicans in St. Louis politics. When votes split in city hall, the political divide is north of Delmar Boulevard versus south of Delmar Boulevard.

"We have two Democratic parties," says Nasheed. "We have the black Democratic party and the white Democratic party. When the primaries come up, whites vote for this guy, and blacks vote for that guy."

That is the political atmosphere that molded Nasheed, and that is the mindset she brings to Jefferson City. She doesn't live and die with the party because she doesn't believe the party lives and dies with her. The Democrats controlled St. Louis when her father was shot. The Democrats controlled St. Louis when she lived off of sugar bread. The Democrats controlled St. Louis when her apartment's courtyard was lined with junkies and dried blood.

"My eyes saw bodies on the street," she says. "You know how if you hear gunshots, you run away from it? It was so much of the norm for us that we would run toward it to see who it was, and we would see bodies. So now, after thinking about it, what did that do to me?"

So she doesn't fight for the Democrats. She fights for the son whose brother got shot, the niece who cuts class, and the grandmother who's seen too many teardrops and closed caskets.

And if the Democrats are down to help her out with that, all the better.

So how's everything?" Nasheed says into her Blackberry. "Are you working with your clients to get some cash in for Citizens to Elect Jamilah Nasheed? I know you are."

She sits at her black lacquered dining room table. Beside her is political consultant Ronnie Richardson, and he is holding a sheet of paper listing names — lobbyists and rich people — and anticipated contributions.

During her last campaign, in 2010, Nasheed raised more than $54,000; in her last contested race, she raised more than $90,000. She'll be on the ballot again in 2012.

"So, tell me this here," she says. "What are we looking like for a special session?...What are you hearing?...Uh huh...OK...and local control? Yeah...well, we're moving into election cycle, so you know there's a lot of political pandering going on right now..."

She mentions that the Democrats proposed a state representative redistricting map that moved her and Penny Hubbard, who also voted with the Republicans on the redistricting bill, into the same district.

"That's the punishment that the Democrats have given us, right? That's so cute," she says to the lobbyist or rich person. "However, I don't think the Republicans will sign on to the Democrats' map..."

When the call ends, Richardson marks down the $1,500 they just raised. Nasheed crosses her legs, adjusts her glasses and lets out a sigh.

This is her least favorite part of campaigning, she says — calling all these high rollers who don't even live in her district, begging for money. No, she'd much rather pound the pavement, knock on doors, shake hands with her people. Just like she did in her first campaign more than twenty years ago.

It wasn't an ordinary political beginning. She was fifteen, and the manager of the Darst-Webbe project was kicking her out for fighting too much. She asked him to give her another chance.

OK, he said: If you can get enough neighbors to sign a petition, you can stay. So she pounded the pavement, climbed all nine floors of her building, knocking on doors until she collected more than 300 signatures. He relented. She was allowed to stay. Then a week later she got into a fight and was kicked out for good.

« Previous Page