ST. LOUIS (CN) - A Democratic coalition of black Missouri officials has endorsed the Republican candidate for St. Louis County Executive in the November election, further evidence that the strife in Ferguson is spilling over into the political arena.
The Fannie Lou Hamer Democratic Coalition announced Wednesday that it will support Republican candidate Rick Stream and not Democrat Steve Stenger. The coalition consists of North St. Louis County Democratic mayors, council members and other elected officials.
Anger over "years and years of disrespect" by party leaders drove the action, the coalition said.
County Council Chairwoman Hazel Erby cited the council's rejection last summer of a black-supported minority-hiring-inclusion bill and the failure of the Democratic power structure to consult black county leaders on a local school transfer issue as two key reasons the coalition will actively encourage black citizens to cast their votes for Stream, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
But the decision might be more about Stenger, race and his ties to St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch.
Stenger soundly defeated black incumbent Charlie Dooley in a nasty August primary. Erby told the Post-Dispatch that Stenger's tactics to end Dooley's 11-year term were a "disgraceful and organized effort by certain Democratic organizations to taint the reputation of the first African-American county executive."
But more damning could be Stenger's ties with McCulloch, whom many want removed from the Aug. 9 shooting death investigation of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
McCulloch endorsed Stenger over Dooley in the primary. In September, Ferguson protesters threatened Stenger at a county council meeting that if he didn't demand McCulloch to remove himself from the Brown investigation, that he would feel the pain in the November election.
Stenger didn't bow to the demands.
"Steve Stenger's unbreakable alignment with Bob McCulloch shows he will be unable to run the executive office independently and without influence," Erby told the Post-Dispatch.
How the endorsement for Stream will affect the race remains to be seen.
"These 20 individuals don't represent North County or the vast majority of African-Americans in North County," Stenger told the Post-Dispatch.
Stenger instead went on the attack, characterizing his opponent as someone with extremist, Tea Party views. The Democrats call Stream an opponent of abortion who supported both the enactment of stricter voter-identification laws and legislation that would have blocked President Barack Obama from the Missouri ballot in 2008 and 2012.
Stream, a state representative from Kirkwood, thanked the coalition.
"I am humbled by the coalition's endorsement and political courage in crossing party lines to support me today," Stream said in the statement.
University of Missouri-St. Louis political science professor Terry Jones told the Post-Dispatch the coalition endorsement "is not good news for Stenger," but it may not necessarily be a death blow.
"On the other hand, if they are not prepared or lack the resources to move the media endorsement into a door-to-door ground campaign, it isn't likely they can gather enough votes to change the overall outcome in a primarily Democratic county," Jones told the Post-Dispatch.
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