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Four square off in St. Louis mayoral primary on Tuesday

St. Louis voters will narrow the field of candidates in the mayoral race to two on Tuesday, using for the first time a new balloting procedure in which candidates from both parties compete in the same primary.

Four candidates are hoping to replace Mayor Lyda Krewson, who isn't seeking a second term. City Treasurer Tishaura Jones and aldermanic President Lewis Reed, who finished second and third to Krewson in the 2017 Democratic primary, are running again, along with Alderwoman Cara Spencer and businessman Andrew Jones

In previous years, Democrats and Republicans squared off in separate primary elections in March. St. Louis is so heavily Democratic that the April general election was virtually irrelevant.

Voters in November opted for a new “approval voting” method. St. Louis is just the second city to try it. Fargo, North Dakota, voters used it for the first time last year.

Under the new method, candidates from both parties compete in the same primary. Andrew Jones is the only Republican but party affiliation isn't listed on the ballot. The top two vote-getters will meet in an April 6 general election.

Another unique feature: Voters can “approve” of as many candidates in the primary as they want. Each vote counts as one. The idea is to get the two candidates with the most support to the general election.

All four candidates say tackling St. Louis’ persistent violent crime problem is the top priority. St. Louis has had among the worst homicide rates of any American city over the past quarter of a century.

Krewson, 67, is the city’s first female mayor. The longtime alderwoman lost her husband to a fatal shooting during a 1995 carjacking and campaigned on a pledge to fight crime. But St. Louis saw a staggering increase in killings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Police said 262 people were killed in St. Louis last year — five less than the record of 267 set in 1993. But because the city’s population has declined since 1993, the homicide rate was much higher in 2020.

Krewson announced her decision not to seek reelection in November, saying elections “are about the future.” She said at the time that challenges posed by crime, COVID-19 and other issues were not factors in her decision.

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