Infiltrating the Democratic Party after Ferguson
Rasheen Aldridge and Bruce Franks, Jr. are among about a dozen candidates on the August 2 2016 ballot who were inspired to run for office by the Ferguson protest movement. While Franks and others are reaching for state-level offices, many are starting at the basic level as Democratic Party committeepersons.
Committee members’ main responsibilities are to register and educate voters, as well as conduct meetings within their wards, Aldridge said. They also select delegates at these meetings in presidential years. Two committee members are elected from each city ward – one man and one woman.
However, the unpaid position also gives them some authority to influence changes in their community. In the city, they are in charge of selecting candidates to fill vacancies at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, as well as state legislative districts that include part of the city.
“Ferguson was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many of us," said Ferguson activist Rachel Johns, who is running for Ward 27 committeewoman.
Johns is also among a group of mainly South City progressives who are supporting each other in committee races. They have all been endorsed by Mobilize Missouri, and are Bernie Sanders supporters. Of that group, about 10 are first-time candidates.
“You can’t jump to a national level without getting your feet wet first,” Johns said. “You have to take care of home first.”
Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who is running against incumbent U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, Jr. on the August 2 ballot, has donated at least $1,000 to many progressive candidates for committeeperson, including Aldridge, Betts, Alison Dreith, Matt Carroll-Schmidt, Marty Murray, Jr., Tony Zebrowski, Annie Rice, Max Cassilly, Laura Hladky and Glenn Burleigh.
Chappelle-Nadal also donated to Franks’ campaign, as well as to Johns’ state rep. campaign – before state Rep. Joshua Peters had her removed from the ballot through a residency challenge. Johns is now running against incumbent committeewoman Pamela Boyd.
Alison Dreith is running for an open committee seat in the 6th Ward against Mary Entrup, the wife of Aldermanic President Lewis Reed. Her running mate, Matt Carroll-Schmidt, is running against state Rep. Michael Butler for the committeeman seat. Carroll-Schmidt, who is an attorney, recently represented the protestors who were arrested during the Donald Trump rally in March.
As a “white ally,” Dreith was on the ground since day two in Ferguson and also joined the Don't Shoot Coalition to push forward fair and impartial policing reforms.
“Getting people engaged and excited about the party, especially the young voters, is really important,” said Dreith, who is the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.
Immigration lawyer Annie Rice participated in the first of what would become ongoing community conversations about Ferguson in the Shaw Neighborhood just before VonDerrit Myers Jr. was shot and killed on Oct. 9, 2014 by then-St. Louis Police Officer Jason Flanery.
“I’d protested and worked jail support, but I hadn’t found a good outlet to move policy forward,” Rice said. “The more I tried to engage with our elected officials, the more I realized I wasn’t really getting anywhere.”
Madeline Buthod June 18, 2016:
2017 Hershel Walker Peace and Justice Awards
A diverse crowd of 170 gathered at the Painter’s Union District Council 58 hall to honor five labor and community leaders receiving the Hershel Walker ‘Peace and Justice’ Awards Breakfast May 13, 2017.
The annual awards breakfast was commissioned to commemorate the extraordinary life of St. Louis trade unionist and civil rights leader Hershel Walker, who dedicated over 60 years to the labor, peace, and justice movements.
Members of the Service Employees International Union, Healthcare MO/KS; Coalition of Black Trade Unionists-St. Louis Chapter; IUOE local 148; Laborers’ Local 110; Labor Tribune; SMART Local 36; Painters’ District Council 58; Jobs with Justice; Missourians against the Death Penalty; and Show me $15 attended the breakfast along with: State Representative’s : Peter Merideth (D-80th District), Clem Smith (D-85th District), Cora Faith Walker (D-74th District); 9th Ward Alderman Dan Guenther; 15th Ward Alderwoman Megan Green; 20th Ward Committeewoman Wendy Campbell; 8th Ward Committeewoman Annie Rice; 14th Ward Committeewoman Madeline Buthod; and many others. .
Four Wards Forward
In Feb. 2017, as part of the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society’s Four Wards Forward program Shuron Jones and Niles Zee headed-up the WES Votes program in our service communities, Wards 8, 9, 15 and 20.
In all, the WES Votes program mobilized dozens of volunteers to register over 500 people to vote in these Wards, helping to increase voter turnout for St. Louis’ August primary and the November general election.
In fact, our efforts were so successful that newly elected committee, ward and state rep. leaders recognized WES publicly, crediting us with leading the charge, specifically in low-turnout precincts in Wards 8 and 20.
For example, WES member and State Rep. Peter Merideth (80th District) praised WES’s work on Facebook as the St. Louis Democratic Central Committee celebrated a new record for single month registrations. 8th Ward Committee-people Paul Fehler and Annie Rice, as well as Alderwoman Cara Spencer and Committeewoman Madeline Buthod (14th Ward), also thanked WES for its outstanding voter registration efforts.
Moving forward, WES leader, Shuron Jones, is now heading-up the 2017 WES Votes campaign in Ward 9, where the current Alderman voted against the minimum wage increase. While WES cannot and does not endorse candidates, every registered voter in Ward 9 will know where Ortmann stands when it comes to raising working families out of poverty.
Green to the DNC
Madeline Buthod June 18, 2016:
Congratulations to Ald. Megan Green on being elected to the Democratic National Committee! Missouri is in good hands with Megan pushing for a more progressive Democratic Party. — with Magdalena Beautoe and Megan Ellyia Green and Lew Moye in Sedalia, Missouri.
Pecinovsky 14th Ward Alderman campaign
Tony Pecinovsky September 24 2018:
Thank you to everybody who came out and canvassed yesterday! Together we can Build A Better 14th Ward! — with Elise Rose Kehle, Madeline Buthod, Alicia Hernandez, Drew Mossman and Nicholas James, John Bachtell, Al Neal also pictured.
Building A Better 14th Ward
Building A Better 14th Ward March 3 2019:
I'm constantly amazed by the dedication of our volunteers. Thank you, everyone, for going above and beyond. Just two more days!
- VoteMarch5th #BuildingABetter14thWard — with Maicol David Lynch, Karisa Gilman Hernandez, K. Nikki Overmiller, Tony Pecinovsky, Madeline Buthod and St. Louis Young Democrats.
How can a local politician in a working-class ward stand against the interests of working-class people? This was the question before voters in this city’s southside 14th ward during last week’s municipal election when 41-year-old labor activist Tony Pecinovsky racked up 48 percent of the vote, nearly turning out longtime incumbent Carol Howard in the Democratic primary.
Pecinovsky’s campaign was launched last September on a wave of electoral activism that followed a successful statewide campaign to overcome the legislature’s “right-to-work” legislation via a ballot initiative.
“A group of folks were upset with our alderperson,” Democratic Committeewoman Madeline Buthod told People’s World. Besides the betrayal of community interests on her anti-minimum wage vote, Buthod said, “Howard was in favor of every tax abatement that came our way. Those tax abatements take money from our city schools.”
“Tony had a history of working with the labor movement. He was a big part of getting the minimum wage passed,” Buthod said, adding that Pecinovsky was a big presence in the ward collecting signatures to put the initiative to kill the right-to-work bill on the ballot. “We trusted him to do what’s right because of his history,” Buthod concluded.
Besides the 14th Ward Democrats, which Buthod co-chairs, Pecinovsky was supported by an array of progressive and labor groups across the city: STL Young Democrats, Planned Parenthood, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Mobilize Missouri, Operating Engineers and Painters Unions, SEIU, and Action St. Louis.
Howard’s campaign did not offer a defense of her vote against raising the minimum wage nor of her corporate spending priorities. Rather, it focused on Pecinovsky’s long-time work with the Communist Party USA, which itself has a long history of supporting working class issues in St. Louis, especially in the labor movement and with such groups as the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
“Tony is a stand-up working-class guy,” said Lew Moye, president emeritus of St. Louis CBTU, taking issue with the Howard camp’s red-baiting campaign. “That makes the anti-communism ineffective.” He cited what he called Pecinovsky’s long history of opposing racism and sexism: “He’s a true champion of the working class.”
Pecinovsky is president of the St. Louis Workers Education Society, a community center located near the 14th ward. “WES has made itself a home for grassroots organizations,” said Pecinovsky. The center offers labor history, political education, and know-your-rights-on-the-job curriculum to local unions, as well as shop steward trainings and union newsletter design work. WES was a place that brought grassroots forces together while the community was protesting the police killing of African American teenager Michael Brown in 2014.