PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Rasheen Aldridge, right, is among the Democratic Central Committee members pushing for greater involvement in the process to choose Lyda Krewson's successor on the Board of Aldermen.
The St. Louis City Democratic Central Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. tonight, attempting once again to choose its nominee to replace Mayor Lyda Krewson on the city's Board of Aldermen.
But while the committee would normally swiftly affirm the choice of the committeeman and committeewoman whose ward has a vacancy, some members are still smarting after what happened the first time — when the young venture capitalist chosen by the 28th ward representatives proved not to meet the position's most basic requirements. Soon after being affirmed as the full committee's choice, Elise Miller Hoffman withdrew swiftly after facing questions
about her eligibility.
Now some members are suggesting they need to be more involved in meeting, and vetting, the contenders.
"Last time, it was unanimous," notes Michael Dauphin, the 13th ward committeeman. "I imagine we'll have more people talking it through at this meeting. And I imagine the committee won't be quite as hands-off as it was the first go-round."
The committee's choice does not automatically ascend — there's a special election scheduled for July 11 to decide that. But the candidate who gets to run with "Democrat" next to his or her name has a big advantage on the ballot. Former alderman Steve Roberts Sr., Thompson Coburn attorney Celeste Vossmeyer and other heavy-hitters had previously expressed interest in the committee's nod.
Privately, many committee members blame Hoffman for not ensuring that she met the position's requirements before seeking out the job. (Dauphin, for one, notes that the 28th ward committee members personally interviewed ten candidates for the job — "They put a lot of time and thought into this; it was not something they took lightly.") But between the public sting of their chosen candidate withdrawing and the board's newly energized composition after progressives successfully challenged a few Democratic party insiders last November
, there could be more pushback tonight.
One of the new members, Rasheen Aldridge, who won his seat in a contentious revote
, has been lobbying members by email to urge greater involvement in the process, not just acquiescence to the 28th ward's choice. While he understands the "courtesy" given to each ward's representatives, he says he'd like to see committee members think about the city as a whole. "This is not just a committee seat, not just someone who will be doing work in the ward. This person will be making decisions about things like the stadium, the minimum wage," he says. "They'll have a say-so in how I live north of Delmar. Just to ask for their bios to be sent out beforehand doesn't feel like too much to ask."
He adds, "A lot of us are not wanting to just be a rubber stamp."
Yet despite that push, going into tonight's meeting Aldridge says that members not only don't know the 28th ward members' recommendations, but they don't even know all the contenders.
Marie Ceselski, the 7th ward committeewoman, has been openly unhappy with that lack of knowledge — a complaint echoed on Twitter yesterday by both Aldridge and Torrey Park, who represents the 15th ward.
Park, the 15th Ward committeewoman, says it's not fair to ask members to vote absent a bit more information. "Given that we don't all have access to candidate names, bios, or where they stand on important issues that affect the entire city, this feels disingenuous and puts many of us in a difficult situation," she says. "It almost ensures 'courtesy' support."
Dauphin notes that, when members voted unanimously for Hoffman at its last meeting, she wasn't even in attendance — leaving the committee with no choice but to take the word of the committee members recommending her. That, he suggests, is unlikely to happen again. And Aldridge says he believes that, at minimum, any candidates who bother to take the time to the come to the meeting should be given a chance to speak, even if they aren't the 28th ward members' choice.
"We should at least hear them out," he says.
Bob Hilgemann, the committee's chairman, did not return a call seeking comment yesterday afternoon.
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