Statewide Initiative Petition for NonPartisan Elections Is A Hot Mess

huxleyWednesday, Damien Johnson submitted four initiative petition drafts with the Missouri Secretary of State. Johnson works in the initiative petition industry, was treasurer of Democrat Dylan Hassinger’s recent state senate campaign, and previously a Republican activist and GOP candidate for 64th District State Representative.

Three of his petitions are marijuana related.  I have not compared them except to see that one is more of a right to grow petition and two are in depth legalization.

But 2018-003 is an initiative petition to replace political party August primaries and party label November general elections with November nonpartisan elections with runoffs to follow for some elected offices. Some.

These petitions are in the public comment phase. Later they could be approved for signature collection.

This nonpartisan elections petition is a hot mess.

The petitions covers U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Missouri Senate, Missouri House, and all statewide offices except State Auditor, which would remain a partisan primary and general election every four years. It also does not cover county offices, meaning they would continue to be elected by partisan primary and general elections. This amendment would set up a two tier election system for state offices, certainly one more costly than present.

Filing fee for these nonpartisan offices would be $100 or less and no signature collection would be required, meaning every Tom, Dick, and Harry would file and the ballots will be many, many, many pages long.

The November election for the nonpartisan offices would require a winner to earn 50% of the vote or there would be a run-off election. Given the time needed to certify the first vote and set things up for the run-off, the second vote would be between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s guaranteed to be lower turnout because of holiday season, let alone the possibility of the first snow complicating matters.

Let me also point out that this post-November election period is when newly elected legislators participate in freshmen orientation. This is when they learn the Senate/House Rules and procedures, get staffed, and receive introductions to agencies, before their swearing in and session begins the first week in January.

Most disturbing about this proposal is the part were we would still have August elections for ballot issues, most surely low turnout because the only other elections on the ballot will be county office primaries. While I can find no link between this petition and Rex Sinquefield, certainly he stands the most to gain from this proposal.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman


Natalie Vowell Is Still Not A Democrat


I wrote about Natalie Vowell in 2014 when she ran for State Representative without meeting the two year voter registration requirement.  She was, unfortunately, elected a Bernie Sanders delegate to Democratic National Convention. Her antics at convention caused people to google her name and end up at that two year old post- 289 views in a 48 hour period.


As a Bernie Sanders supporter and a Democrat, I am embarrassed by Natalie Vowell and her political circus act.

I hope to muster support from other members of St. Louis City Democratic Central Committee and Missouri State Democratic Party, and in the future have both refuse to accept her check to file for public office as a Democrat. We can do that. She is not a Democrat. Never will be. Natalie Vowell belongs to the Natalie Vowell Party and no other.

7th Ward Independent Democrats Candidate Survey Responses

VoteTreasurer – 7th Ward Independent Democrats and 7th Ward Committeewoman Marie Ceselski have endorsed Tishaura Jones for Treasurer.

Circuit Attorney – 7th Ward Independent Democrats and 7th Ward Committeewoman Marie Ceselski have endorsed Kim Gardner for Circuit Attorney.

Sheriff – 7th Ward Independent Democrats and 7th Ward Committeewoman Marie Ceselski have endorsed Vernon Betts for Sheriff.

7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman and Committeeman – 7th Ward Independent Democrats have endorsed Marie Ceselski for 7th Ward Committeewoman and Marty Murray Jr for Committeeman.

STL City Democratic Party Needs Open Meetings

365px-DemocratslogoOver the next months you may hear from some St. Louis City candidates for Democratic Party Committeewoman and Committeeman about opening up St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee meetings to the public, providing greater transparency on political party business, and making an effort to encourage more participation in party activities and elections.

Presently, to attend a Central Committee meeting, you must be an elected member of Central Committee or the invited guest of…, well…, I am unclear on exactly who is authorized to do the inviting. The rules are not written down and there are a number of opinions.

I have argued for open meetings since  I was elected the 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman four years ago.

Other county Central Committees have open meetings. I know they often have county Democratic Party clubs that they meet in concert with, usually monthly, and there’s often an inexpensive meal or snacks, and a keynote speaker. When needed, before or after the open event, the elected township committeewomen and committeemen meet briefly to conduct internal business. I know these open meetings take place because I have been to some. It provides transparency and encourages participation. I favor that format for St. Louis City Democrats.

And so does Alison Dreith, candidate for 6th Ward Democratic Committeewoman. Alison was Moderator at last week’s 6th & 7th Wards Circuit Attorney and Sheriff Candidates Forum. Alison told the audience that she had attended neighboring county Central Committee meetings- open meetings- and wanted that for St. Louis City. I have heard other candidates for committeewoman and committeeman voice their support as well.

Central Committee and County Democratic Club websites or Facebook pages provide information on open meetings for County Democratic organizations in 36 Missouri counties: Bates CountyBoone CountyCaldwell County, Callaway CountyCape Girardeau County, Cass County, Christian County, Clay County, Cole County, Cooper CountyFranklin County, Greene County, Howard County, Howell County, Jackson County, Jasper County, Jefferson County, Lafayette County, Lincoln County, Linn County, Miller County, Moniteau County, Morgan County, Newton CountyPhelps CountyPlatte County, Pulaski County, Randolph County, Ray County, St. Charles County, St. Francois County, St. Louis CountyScott County, Shelby CountyVernon CountyWayne Counties.

Online newspaper articles or online calendars provide information on open meetings for County Democratic organizations in another 15 counties: Cedar County, Dade County, Dallas County, Douglas County, Madison County, Maries County, Pettis County, Pike County, Polk County, Saline County, Stoddard County, Stone County, Washington County, Webster County, and Wright Counties.

I did not perform an exhaustive search and would not be surprised that I missed some.

Most counties in Missouri are small, under 25,000 population, and most of them do not appear to have Democratic Party Central Committees with an online presence. But neither does the St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee. There is a committee working on it. A committee.

According to longtime party leaders, St. Louis Democratic City Central Committee meets only in closed session because: 1) No county Central Committees in Missouri have open meetings; 2) This is the way it has always been done; and 3) Republicans might attend and hear our secrets.

Reason #1 is a myth. In fact, I have not found a single Central Committee in Missouri that only meets in closed session. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Saying it’s rare.

Reason #2 is just plain sad.

Reason #3 is laughable. Even in the most Republican of counties in Missouri, Democrats meet at the steak house or courthouse in open session. And the Republican Party barely has a pulse in St. Louis City, in large part the State and National GOP’s doing. The Republican agenda is anti everything so many of us in St. Louis City hold dear.

The real reason Central Committee continues to meet only in closed session is there aren’t enough committeewoman and committeeman votes to dump the arcane policy/rule/tradition. That could change this August 2nd. I hope so.

A presidential election with so much candidate-driven volunteer energy is a great opportunity to add hands and hearts to the Democratic Party. Opening up Central Committee meetings will invite both participation and transparency. We need both.

A Response To Some Sam Cummings Propaganda Circulating

Dear Sam Cummings Voter Who Is Not Related To Him:

7th Ward Independent Democrats had an over 30% turnout for our Endorsement Happy Hour. Drama brought by you and your candidate, Sam Cummings, was predictable. So, I was pleased to see anyone show up, and even more pleased that some stayed after they voted and enjoyed great pizza and craft beer despite your distractions.

You and most of the entourage of your candidate, Sam Cummings, failed to purchase food and beverages at the restaurant, a requirement posted in the event notice. I called the meeting, so I felt obligated to compensate the restaurant for your bad manners out of my own pocket.

You and your candidate, Sam Cummings, disturbed customers with rude protestations and in your face taking of photographs. Pick on me all you like but it’s pretty low to take out your frustrations on dining patrons.

7th Ward Independent Democrats is a private organization, a club, but our Membership Applications have never been a secret. There’s a website. Earlier we had a Facebook page. Most ward organizations in St. Louis City do not have either.

In our organization, voting rights kick in upon paying dues, participating in two events, and verifying voter registration. Your candidate, Sam Cummings, has never made any objections to me regarding these requirements or brought it up at any of our events.

Most, if not all, open ward organizations in St. Louis City have similar requirements. As example, the 15th Ward Democrats require three meetings.

Most ward organizations here in St. Louis City are not open ward organizations. The committeeman and/or committeewoman make the endorsements without vote by a membership. 7th Ward Committeeman Brian Wahby has endorsed Jack Coatar, so his new committee, 7th Ward Regular Democrats, supports Coatar, without a candidate forum or vote or even having any members. He’s entitled to do that.

For 7th Ward Independent Democrats, voting on endorsements has been, with the exception of last Tuesday, weighted voting- the more you do, the more votes you get. Your candidate, Sam Cummings, and his family have cast their weighted votes on numerous ward endorsements and never voiced any concerns at any of our events.

In order to put to rest the ridiculous notion that your candidate, Sam Cummings, was somehow going to be robbed of an endorsement from our organization via weighted voting, I made the decision to carry out the endorsement vote using one man, one vote.

Your candidate, Sam Cummings, lost the endorsement vote and not all of us in the room even voted. I did not vote.

Your candidate, Sam Cummings, was not permitted to vote because he had quit the organization last year.


Sadly, your candidate, Sam Cummings, did not inform his family that he had quit. This led to more drama at the Endorsement Happy Hour.

7th Ward Independent Democrats sponsored a candidate debate open to the public. I do not know where people get the idea they have a right to speak at every event open to the public. It was not an invitation for the public to come and query the candidates. I understand that you and some others did not like the format. But the format was no secret. No one forced you to attend. There was no conspiracy to silence you.

I am deaf and was unable to adequately read your lips to understand what you were saying at the candidate debate. I thought you had asked if the debate was going to run democratically and I said, no. I have apologized for not hearing your actual question. Yet you continue to make a big deal about it. I am beginning to think you are merely trying to take advantage of my disability, which is something your candidate, Sam Cummings, has done.

I had worked in my paying job for 17 years before I ran for Committeewoman. I am a Committeewoman in spite of my job not because of it. 

You seem to be really wound up about Chelsea Merta making ends meet by borrowing her Mom’s old car with Indiana plates, a car bought in Missouri and taxes paid here. Your candidate, Sam Cummings, was still living with his parents a little over a year ago, was living with them when he ran for state representative. Unlike your candidate, Chelsea Merta hasn’t run for public office with someone else picking up the tab for rent, utilities, food, and laundry.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Early Endorsements Do Not Equal Corruption

I do not have problem with elected officials endorsing candidates before filing has closed. You make an endorsement in your own name. You’re not beholding to a group if you do not wish. Your name and whatever political capital it brings is your own to share or withhold.

Me, I wait for a vote by my membership. That’s my thing. It’s not better or worse than what others do. It’s just how I roll.

I founded an open ward organization where members vote on endorsements. My endorsement goes with the 7th Ward Independent Democrats endorsement.

In the case of the 7th Ward Alderman vacancy and Board President race, my endorsement will come after our 7th Ward Primary Candidate Forum/Debate (7 pm Monday, January 19th at Lafayette Park United Methodist Church) and our 7th Ward Endorsement Election Happy Hour  (5:30-7 pm Tuesday, February 3rd at Sassy JAC’s, 1730 S 8th).

That’s how I do it. Some committee people also wait for their ward organization members to endorse. Others do not. Some have ward organizations without members. They exist on paper for campaign finance reporting purposes. There’s no uniform ward organization template in St. Louis City.

Aldermen, State Legislators, and Citywide Officials, of course, are free to make an endorsement any time they darn well choose.

Me, personally, with or without a ward organization, I’d want to see who files, particularly in an open primary, before I made a commitment. But that’s just me. It’s my thing. I respect that other electeds have their own thing.

I feel a need to bring this up because Sam Cummings, who may be a candidate for 7th Ward Alderman, recently Tweeted:

You’ll have to ask him whether he means “be wary” instead of “be weary.”

Sam Cummings does not represent the 7th Ward Independent Democrats. He’s a member but no longer an officer.

Sam Cummings appears to have a beef with some elected officials who have already endorsed Jack Coatar or Chelsea Merta for 7th Ward Alderman. I take that to mean he is either getting in the race or using his ridiculous #NoEthics #NoDemocracy #HiddenAgenda #Corrupt claims as an excuse for not filing.

One of the problems I have with Sam Cummings’ Pre-Filing Deadline Endorsement Conspiracy Theory is consistency. He’s fine with officials endorsing in the Board President race before filing closes. I’m waiting for my ward organization to make the endorsement but I’m not cranky over elected officials already throwing their names behind the re-election of President Lewis Reed.

Sam Cummings also does not appear to take issue with organizations, such as Labor or Business organizations with PACs, who do not wait until filing closes to make endorsements. They get a pass in his novel definition of ethics, democracy, and corruption. As conspiracy theories go, his is not very well developed.

Friday, January 2nd is the Filing Deadline for 7th Ward Alderman, Aldermen in even-numbered wards, and President of the Board of Aldermen. Here is some information on filing for alderman.

As I have said before, I am really looking forward to a robust debate by candidates for 7th Ward Alderman, be they two candidates or twelve. I have no control over other organizations, but I pledge to make sure that the 7th Ward Independent Democrats Candidate Debate is not about early endorsements.

–Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman