Meet the Candidates for the Fifth Ward Alderman Special Election


The race for April Ford-Griffin's seat is underway. - IMAGE VIA
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  • The race for April Ford-Griffin's seat is underway.
Hey political junkies, barely able to wait the twelve months for the rush of the 2012 elections?

Well, like Matthew McConaughey said in the drive-in scene in Dazed and Confused: Not to worry. There's a new fiesta in the making as we speak.

The special election for 5th Ward Alderman is just eight weeks away. Last month, Tammika Hubbard and Tonya Finley filed their papers with the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. The seat opened up in October when April Ford-Griffin stepped down to become executive director for the city's Civil Rights Enforcement Agency.

Ford-Griffin, who won the seat in 1997, set the bar high for whoever becomes her successor. She was chairwoman of the powerful Ways and Means committee and one of the board's most influential voices. Out of the city's 28 wards, the 5th Ward was one of only four to see a population growth over the last decade.

Here's what the candidates bring to the table:

Hubbard is the Democratic nominee. Which was expected since she and her father Rodney Hubbard Sr. were on the ward's Democratic Central Committee. In fact, soon after Ford-Griffin announced her new job, the Post-Dispatch's David Hunn wrote an article with the headline "Tammika Hubbard for Ward 5 alderman?"

Hubbard has numerous ties to local government. In addition to her committee position, she is the supervisor of the court section for the city's earnings tax and previously worked as a parole officer at the Missouri Board of Probation & Parole. Her mother Penny is currently a state representative. Her brother, Rodney Hubbard Jr. is a former state representative.

Finley is running as an independent, which is a reflection of electoral technicality rather than any specific ideological leanings. For twelve years she worked as an office manager in Ford-Griffin's 5th Ward headquarters. She has been involved in city politics for 25 years, working for various campaigns, including for Claire McCaskill, Lewis Reed, and Robin Carnahan. Before beginning this campaign she was a supervisor at the Crown Food Mart on Kingshighway Blvd. and Martin Luther King Blvd.

While neither candidate has articulated specific policies at this point, both mention crime and education as the major areas for improvement in the ward.

Finley asserts that the two issues can be addressed by adding more recreational facilities for youth.

"It can be solved if we try to get some type of community center down here for the younger people, for the teenagers," says Finley. "A lot of them are out of school. A lot don't have any access to the internet. If we can get them access to the internet, get them back going to school, they can be more productive."

Hubbard points to her experience on the parole board and education in criminal justice, in which she has a bachelor's degree.

"I feel that I have the knowledge to understand what types of things need to take place to ensure that our neighborhoods are safer because I have a background in criminology and criminal justice," says Hubbard.

Additionally, both say that they intend to pursue further residential and commercial development in the ward, as Ford-Griffin did. They also both say they want to make senior citizen services more accessible.

This race will be an especially grueling street fight. The candidates' respective platforms are similar, it is a hyper-local alderman race (around 12,000 people live in the 5th Ward), and it is a special election, which tends to have lower voter turnout. Every handshake, every hug and every conversation between now and December 20 will be vital.

"Some of our voters aren't even aware that there is a vacancy within the ward," says Hubbard. "So one of our most important campaign strategies is to get out and knock on doors and reach voters at the ground level."

"The main thing is door to door," says Finley, who also plans to send out mailers. "I just want to maintain constant contact with the community."

The candidacy filing period doesn't end until November 18, so it's still possible another person enters the race.


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