The Race for License Collector

Dooley, Thompson challenged as Slay, Post try to play kingmakers

By Chris King St. Louis American | Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014 9:06 am

Mavis Thompson greets Pat Pendleton at Diner’s Delight restaurant on the city’s Southside to campaign for her election to the office of License Collector for the city of St. Louis Wednesday afternoon.

Two elections in the August 5 Democratic primary – one in the city, the other in the county – represent more than the individuals who hold these elected offices. The races for both St. Louis license collector and St. Louis County executive have become proxy fights for who dictates the region’s politics.

Mayor Francis Slay endorsed against the incumbent Democratic license collector, Mavis Thompson, before filing for the primary opened. Against an African-American incumbent, he endorsed a black alderman, Jeffrey Boyd, who has supported the mayor for years (against the will of most of Boyd’s 22nd Ward constituents, who reliably vote against Slay).

The early endorsement of a black candidate of his choice against a black incumbent who was appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon was Slay’s declaration of political war by proxy – a reckless political rebuke of both the governor and the black political majority that recommended Thompson to the governor last fall (after Michael McMillan, also an African American, resigned to take leadership of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis).

Other early endorsers of Boyd were Sheriff James Murphy and the St. Louis Police Officers Association. Murphy shares with the mayor the distinction of having been successfully sued for racial discrimination by a black man who served under him. Murphy was successfully sued by two deputy sheriffs, William “Patrick” Hill and Jacques Hughes, and Slay by Deputy Fire Chief Charles Coyle.

Despite being black himself, Boyd proceeded to run a typical South Side campaign against Thompson in select majority-white wards in the city. He sent a piece of direct mail that depicts Thompson in a hoodie next to more than a dozen vicious quotes from the Post-Dispatch published almost 20 years ago when Thompson was clerk of the circuit court.

Thompson has run a positive campaign, emphasizing her years of administrative experience and the improvements to the management and efficiency of the office she has made. She also has garnered the support of every other African American who holds citywide office: aldermanic President Lewis Reed, Comptroller Darlene Green and Treasurer Tishaura Jones.

U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay, whose 1st Congressional District encompasses all of the city, had not responded to requests from The American to announce an endorsement in the race.

As license collector, Thompson has at her fingertips information about Boyd’s record in nurturing businesses in the ward he represents. In 2013 and 2014,  her office reported, 44 businesses have closed in the 22nd Ward. Those going out of business in Boyd’s ward include one or more eateries, convenience stores, gas stations, apartments, condominiums, childcare centers, mortuaries,  barber and beauty shops, used car dealerships, cell phone stores, alarm and electronic specialists, footwear group and commercial cleaning services, according to the license collector’s office.

Lincoln Industrial Corp. is scheduled to relocate out of the Ward 22, where it has operated since October 2001.  Last year the company paid $30,000 in business taxes, according to the license collector’s office, and is reported to be the largest employer in the 22nd Ward with 400 employees.

“Offices like license collector, while not powerful in their ability to shape public policy, are important as measures of what kind of city we are,” said Alderman Antonio D. French, who has blasted Boyd for his political alliance with the mayor. “Held by strong, independent voices, those offices can help bring about a much-needed cultural and political change in our city.”

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