How Alderman Lyda Krewson became “the white candidate” for St. Louis mayor

From left to right: St. Louis lobbyist and “facilitator” Lou Hamilton, St. Louis mayoral candidate and alderman Lyda Krewson, St. Louis alderman and Krewson political ally Joe Roddy, Jr., St. Louis activist Elizabeth Vega, St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson

Today the Post-Dispatch’s new City Hall beat reporter, Koran Addo, broached a subject of much discussion among those who closely follow St. Louis City politics. The subject of much discussion is whether the number of African-American St. Louis mayoral candidates will fracture St. Louis’ African-American vote into several pieces and make it so that the lone white mayoral candidate, Central West End alderman Lyda Krewson, will carry a monolithic white vote to victory on March 7. Addo’s piece takes up several relevant angles of this subject and it is a piece that is well worth a close reading (as is all of Addo’s work).

So, in a such large field of St. Louis mayoral candidates, how did Central West End alderman Lyda Krewson end up as the lone white mayoral candidate? Political hardball is how. The Krewson campaign set to work early executing strategies to keep two potentially formidable white competitors, Chief of Police Sam Dotson and Collector of Revenue Gregg Daly, out of the race for mayor.

At alderman Lyda Krewson’s September 13th mayoral campaign kickoff at the Cheshire Inn, St. Louis aldermen Joe Roddy, Jr. and Steve Conway were in attendance.

On October 6, when Chief of Police Sam Dotson announced an exploratory campaign for mayor, everyone from Mayor Slay to former SLMPD chief Dan Isom raised concerns about whether Dotson’s running for mayor while still serving as police chief posed conflicts. Dotson, effectively or not, batted back such concerns. Then on October 14, Krewson ally and St. Louis alderman Joe Roddy announced his introduction of a resolution in the Board of Aldermen calling on Dotson to resign from his chief position.

In a KMOX interview on his “Resign, Dotson” resolution, Roddy said that he had not yet endorsed a candidate for mayor. Roddy’s comment, in a technical sense, was true. But Roddy’s presence at Krewson’s mayoral campaign kickoff a month earlier indicates which candidate he supported. A photograph often can speak one thousand words.

At first, it appeared that Roddy’s “Resign, Dotson” resolution had a decent chance of passage. However, key members of the Board of Aldermen representing wards on both the North Side and South Side did not hop on board when the resolution came up for a vote, and so the resolution failed. While aldermen’s individual reasons for not hopping on board Roddy’s “Resign, Dotson” wagon vary, reasons include a lack of confidence in the person who would have likely replaced Dotson as interim chief, the resolution’s lack of efficacy in that it was non-binding, and concerns that such a resolution did nothing more than further politicize what should be non-political issues of public safety.

Three days later on October 17, there came a hyper-technical internal affairs complaint against Dotson that was filed by a former SLMPD sergeant with an ax to grind. That didn’t seem to go anywhere, either.

1) SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda at a public meeting on the St. Louis Civilian Oversight Board bill. 2) Activist Elizabeth Vega outside of St. Louis alderman Christine Ingrassia’s home. 3) Elizabeth Vega and Chief Sam Dotson outside of St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s home.

On the late afternoon of Election Day, November 8, Chief Dotson announced that he would not seek the office of mayor. The day after, the St. Louis American explained why.

In September, Dotson had given sworn testimony in the assault trial of activist Elizabeth Vega, who, among others, had been demonstrating outside of Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s home on the evening that Joyce announced that she would not seek charges in the police shooting death of VonDerrit Myers. Dotson was the alleged victim of the assault in the case. The case came down to whether the jury believed the testimony of Vega or of Dotson. The jury believed Dotson’s testimony, and Vega was found by the jury to be guilty of the assault charge.

Vega hadn’t yet been sentenced when, on October 31, Vega’s attorney brought forth evidence that had not been presented at trial. The evidence was a video recording of the demonstration outside of Joyce’s home. In several key ways, the video recording contradicted Dotson’s sworn testimony while corroborating Vega’s testimony. Vega’s attorney argued that, but for the absence of the video evidence, Vega would not have been convicted.

Who shot the video footage and why it wasn’t presented at Vega’s trial remain mysteries. The video footage was ruinous for Dotson’s potential mayoral campaign, and Dotson knew it. Both Dotson’s announcement on November 8 that he wasn’t running for mayor and the publishing of the reason why on November 9 were overwhelmed by the noise of the presidential election coverage.

After shot after shot at Dotson’s nascent mayoral campaign, one finally landed. Dotson was out.

1) St. Louis alderman Steve Conway, former alderman Stephen Gregali and lobbyist/”facilitator” Lou Hamilton take part in the Central West End Association’s annual golf tournament. 2) Alderman Conway argues for a comprehensive overhaul of the firefighters’ pension system as former alderman Jennifer Florida looks on. 3) St. Louis Collector of Revenue Gregg Daly is interviewed by KMOX about his possible candidacy for mayor.

Via reliable sources not affiliated with any mayoral campaign, Krewson ally and alderman Steve Conway has boasted on several occasions over the past couple of months that he is responsible for keeping Collector of Revenue Gregg Daly out of the mayor’s race. Many of Conway’s boasts preceded Daly’s public announcement of his decision not to run for mayor. In these boasts, Conway does not provide details as to how he kept Daly out of the race.

Meanwhile, via reliable sources not affiliated with any mayoral campaign, there has been over the past couple of months a concerted “whisper campaign” directed against Daly. As with most whisper campaigns, the purpose of this whisper campaign was for the whispers to eventually make their way to Daly’s ears, and the whispers did. As with most whisper campaigns, the content of the whispers was less about the sharing of inconsequential gossip and more about directing a threat at the subject of the gossip.

On November 17, Gregg Daly announced his decision not to run for mayor of St. Louis. Daly told the Post-Dispatch’s Koran Addo that day that the mayor’s race had taken on “a negative tone.” Four days later, Addo reported that Daly had further explicated what he meant by a “negative tone” as “a negative tone behind the scenes.”

Daly, like Dotson, was out.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Alderman Lyda Krewson became “the white candidate” for St. Louis mayor: dirty tricks and whisper campaigns, or, if you prefer, political hardball. Whatever you prefer to call it, it smells to me like the work of Krewson ally, lobbyist and “facilitator” Lou Hamilton.

The goal that the Krewson campaign’s hardball achieved, Krewson’s status as “the white candidate,” is as cynical as it is offensive. It’s cynical, because the idea here is to play on people’s prejudices, conscious and unconscious, about a black person sitting at the desk of the mayor’s office.

It’s also offensive. It’s personally offensive to me because I was raised in the kind of “old school” South Side community that Lyda Krewson’s campaign sees as amenable to nothing more than a base racial appeal. Well, my parents and my Catholic school teachers raised and taught me to be better than that. Gregg Daly, who was raised not all that far from where I was raised and in a similar community, was raised and taught to be better than that, too.

When Daly announced that he wasn’t going to run for St. Louis mayor, he said that “we’re all in this together — young, old, white, African American, Vietnamese or Bosnian.”

Well said, Gregg Daly. It’s the truth, and it’s the attitude that St. Louis will need over at least the next four years and into the future. On March 7 at the ballot box, we the people of St. Louis City can begin to foster the attitude of “in it together.” On March 7, we can reject the style of politics that Lyda Krewson’s campaign has so cynically adopted.