St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones greets supporters after her win in the mayoral race Tuesday, defeating Alderwoman Cara Spence. (Photo: Wiley Price / St. Louis American)

by Dana Rieck — 

St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones made history Tuesday night by becoming the first Black woman to be elected mayor of St. Louis.

In the city’s unofficial election results, Jones received 51.68 percent (30,099) of the vote, while her opponent Alderwoman Cara Spencer finished the night with 47.77 percent (27,819 votes). 

Jones held a drive-in rally to await the election results at The Omega Center, 3900 Goodfellow Blvd. There, her son Aden Jones Jeffries, introduced the mayor-elect around 9:50 p.m. after the unofficial results were released.  

“Guess what? Don’t tell anybody, but, we won,” he said, then thanking people in his life who have supported him throughout the campaign.

“I’m proud of my mom, she’s been in politics ever since I was born,” he said. “I know that I’m a pain in the butt sometimes but honestly I don’t think she would be here without me today.” 

As the crowd laughed, he introduced Jones, who took the stage in her signature color — red. She thanked her family, friends, campaign team, supporters and voters. 

“St. Louis, this is an opportunity for us to rise, but I told you when I was running that we are done ignoring tough conversations, we are done ignoring the racism that has held our city and region back,” she said. “I made the same case four years ago and came up short, but I made peace with the fact that I would rather lose another election again than stop having the tough conversations in every corner of our city.” 

She addressed the negative messages about herself that came from Spencer’s campaign, saying that while some people said the negativity was “just politics,” she was not going to ignore racism for the sake of unity and civility. 

“My professional mantra has always been I ain’t got to like you to work with you,” she said. 

“I will not stay silent about the need to eradicate dog whistle racism and the underlying bigotry in our politics,” she said. “I will not stay silent when I spot racism. I will not stay silent when I spot homophobia or transphobia. I will not stay silent when I spot xenophobia. I will not stay silent when I spot religious intolerance. I will not stay silent when I spot any injustice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Of course, Jones was quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in that last bit. She said that the concept will be central to her style of governance. 

She then went on to reiterate her campaign’s mantra, that residents should be able to succeed in St. Louis regardless of any aspect of their identity — including race, sexuality, documentation status, language, worship and ZIP code.

“I want to build a city where each and every one of you feels welcome,” she said. “And tonight, we achieved that in an historic moment for our city. Not only will I be the first Black woman to be mayor of the city of St. Louis, but this campaign has unequivocally … begun breaking down the historic racial barriers and the racial divides that exist — and have existed for generations in our city.”

Jones also took a moment to acknowledge the women who came before her who made her win possible — including former Missouri Rep. Betty L. Thompson; Ollie Stewart, who is executive director of Southside Wellness Center; and Pearlie Evans, who was an activist and powerful aide to former U.S. Rep. William L. Clay. 

The mayor-elect then teared up and paused for a moment before acknowledging her mother, who died of cancer in 2000.

“Here is where I will pause and mention the most important woman in my life — my mama,” she said. “My mother died of cancer at a pivotal time in my own development. When I was knocked down, but refused to be knocked out, inspired by her grit, her tenacity and the strength that she demonstrated even in her poor health, I stepped back and pinpointed and rooted my system of support — rebuilt my life step by step. Thank you, mama.”

Jones said she looks forward to doing the same thing with the $500 million stimulus that the city will begin receiving in May, noting there will soon be a website for people to make their voices heard about how to allocate the funds.

“I will be the next mayor of the city of St. Louis because of you — because of your trust in me and your trust in a brighter tomorrow,” Jones said in closing. 

Spencer released a concession statement around 10 p.m. 

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

Jones will be inaugurated on April 20. She replaces Mayor Lyda Krewson, the city’s first female mayor, who was elected in 2017.

She will have just two weeks to put together her new administration, thanks to the new voting method the city passed in November.

In past elections the Democratic mayoral candidate who won the primary was essentially guaranteed to win in the general election against their Republican opponent — giving them just shy of two months to put together the beginnings of their administration.

However, because both mayoral candidates on Tuesday’s ballot were well-funded Democrats with similar platforms, Jones and Spencer found themselves in a tight race.

St. Louis is home to 201,409 registered voters. On Tuesday, 29.09 percent of them (or 58,593) cast their ballot in the municipal general election.

(This story first appeared in the St. Louis American.)