Tishaura Jones Will Be St. Louis' Next Mayor

click to enlarge St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones was elected mayor. - COURTESY TISHAURA JONES
St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones was elected mayor.

Four years after a narrow miss, Tishaura Jones has won the mayor's race, according to unofficial election board results.

Jones, who has served as city treasurer since 2012, defeated Alderwoman Cara Spencer to replace Mayor Lyda Krewson, who announced in November she was retiring from politics.

Jones will become the first Black woman to serve as mayor. She inherits a divided city struggling with historic levels of violence and the fallout of a pandemic that has killed nearly 500 in St. Louis, hammered the economy and pushed untold numbers toward eviction.

But she will also lead a city set to receive $517 million in federal aid, offering a rare opportunity to dedicate real, impact-making resources toward tough problems.

During a March debate, she promised that dealing with the looming eviction crisis would be an early focus of her administration.

"My priorities are that we need to keep people in their homes," she said.

click to enlarge Tishaura Jones supporters were in a good mood early on during her outdoor watch party. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Tishaura Jones supporters were in a good mood early on during her outdoor watch party.

The race was the first under the city's new approval voting system. Voters in the primary were able to pick as many candidates as they liked from a field that included Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed and businessman Andrew Jones.

Tishaura Jones and Spencer advanced as the top two vote getters with Jones selected on 57 percent of ballots and Spencer on 47 percent.

Unlike past elections in which the winner of the Democratic primary was virtually guaranteed victory in the general against a Republican lamb, Jones and Spencer battled through the final five weeks of the campaign. They faced off in multiple televised debates in March. And both ran on progressive platforms with largely overlapping priorities of transforming the city's approach to policing, crime and housing. 

That left them to argue over the methods and more specific goals. For example, they agreed on hallmark city progressive issues such as a goal for closing the St. Louis' Medium Security Institution — the notorious jail known as the Workhouse — but quibbled over the timing. They agreed that the current system of policing but diverged on the best path to an overhaul.

In 2017, Jones lost to Krewson by less than 900 votes. The results in the crowded field in which Krewson won with just 32 percent of the vote, suggested Jones might have won in a head-to-head race. She didn't get a rematch with Krewson, but she finally got the opportunity for a one-on-one this year with Spencer. Unofficial tallies showed Jones winning with 52 percent of the vote, beating the alderwoman by 2,280 votes.

Spencer conceded just after 10 p.m., tweeting her thanks to supporter and congratulations to Jones.

"Thank you to the people of St. Louis," Spencer wrote. "Thank you to everyone who made our campaign possible — I'm deeply grateful. And to Mayor-Elect Tishaura Jones, congratulations and you have my support in making St. Louis the great city we know it can be."

With the election finally decided, Jones will have to make a quick transition from campaigning to governing. She will take office on April 20. Throughout the campaign, she emphasized her experience leading a citywide office as well as partnerships she built in the region and the state during two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives.

She insisted she would be ready to begin the work of rebuilding St. Louis on Day One. Now, she'll have the opportunity to prove it.
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