St. Louis County Winner: Ferguson Was Only Part of Story

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Wesley Bell, who defeated St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch in his 28th year in office, credited engaged volunteers, a face-to-face ground game and a message that reached voters of all backgrounds to help him win a stunning upset in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. “We made a point of trying to bring people together,” Bell said. “Our message was about addressing inequities throughout St. Louis County to make sure everyone is treated fairly, and that message resonated with people.” Political observers had doubted Bell’s chances of toppling the longtime incumbent, but the race wasn’t close. Bell, 43, a second-term Ferguson councilman, got 57 percent of the vote, tallying 24,084 more votes than McCulloch. With no candidate from any other political party in the race, Bell will run unopposed in November.

McCulloch, 67, has faced mainly token opposition since he first won office in 1990. Bell was McCulloch’s first challenger since the 2014 Ferguson protests over the  2014 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer. After Brown was killed, as protests erupted daily for weeks, McCulloch’s office presented witnesses to a grand jury and later faced criticism over the witnesses he allowed to testify. He later announced the decision not to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. Bell said tying his victory only to Ferguson failed to explain the effectiveness of his campaign. “That’s the easy narrative to fall back on,” Bell said. “For six months, our message was about inclusion.” Political scientist E. Terrence Jones of the University of Missouri-St. Louis said that Bell “showed a tremendous ability to mobilize millennials and get them involved in the race, which enabled him to close much of the financial gap between himself and Bob McCulloch.”

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