Judge rules Nasheed can't run in 5th District state Senate contest
A St. Louis judge ruled that state Rep. Jamilah Nasheed can’t run this August in the Democratic primary for the 5th District state Senate seat, a decision that could have wide-reaching implications in the battle for the St. Louis district.
Nasheed, D-St. Louis, was one of two Democratic candidates to file against state Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, a Democrat who represents areas of St. Louis. Wright-Jones sued earlier this month, arguing that Nasheed can’t run in the 5th because her residence is located in the 4th District.
(Start of update) Ryan Hobart, a spokesman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, said his office has not received anything official from the court on the decision.
“We would have to wait for some kind of final determination from them before we do anything,” said Hobart, in answer to the question of whether would be removed from the ballot. (End of update)
Nasheed said that she could run since part of the 4th District was shifted to the 5th District. She pointed to a provision in the state’s constitution: “Each senator shall be 30 years of age, and next before the day of his election shall have been a qualified voter of the state for three years and a resident of the district which he is chosen to represent for one year, if such district shall have been so long established, and if not, then of the district or districts from which the same shall have been taken.”
That interpretation has been used previously by other legislative candidates, going back to the 1980s, when dealing with redrawn boundaries following a census. Several other lawmakers have followed the same interpretation in their filing for office in other legislative districts this year.
But St. Louis City Circuit Judge Joan Moriarty wrote in her decision that she does not believe the phrase “then of the district or districts from which the same shall have been taken” would allow a candidate who resides in the 4th District to run in the 5th District.
If that were the case, the judge wrote, it would “lead to absurd results where a candidate could run in any number of districts, which are no way associated with his or her residence, and would promote electoral district shopping.” She then ruled that Nasheed cannot seek the Democratic nomination in the 5th District.
If sustained, the decision could fundamentally shake up the 5th District contest. Nasheed had emerged as the fundraising leader in the contest, having more money on hand than either Wright-Jones or state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis. In fact, Wright-Jones may have raised some eyebrows when she reported merely $12.30 of cash on hand during the last fundraising quarter.
In an interview, Nasheed told reporters that she would appeal – if it means taking the case all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court.
“She won the battle, I’ll win the war,” Nasheed said. “I don’t know what the judge was thinking. I mean, that should have been clear and cut. So we will appeal it.
“This is going to be an historic battle,” she added. “I will continue to fight it. I will be the next senator. I’m going to continue to campaign in a manner in which I have been campaigning. I’ll continue to raise money. I think a setback is a set up for a comeback.”
After the decision had been made public, Wright-Jones let out an emphatic “yes, yes” during a roll call vote. She then gave a high-five to Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, who in the past engaged in a bitter rivalry with Nasheed.
Wright-Jones deferred comment to her chief of staff, John Bowman. Bowman, a former state representative from north St. Louis County, said that Wright-Jones was happy with the decision.
“We always felt that you should develop a relationship with voters within a certain period of time,” Bowman said. “And you should not be able to run in a district where you cannot even vote for yourself. So we’re pleased that the courts ruled on behalf of the senator. And justice has prevailed.”
Regardless of the outcome, Bowman said there will not be a challenge to Oxford’s residency. He added that he wouldn’t be surprised if the case was appealed.
“It could go to the Supreme Court,” he said. “We’re confident that the ruling will be upheld.”
Battles over residency in House races
(Start of update) While Nasheed’s case could set a precedent for state Senate contests, another decision handed out this week could provide some direction for House incumbents running in districts where their residence is not located.
State Rep. Rochelle Walton Gray, D-Blackjack, filed a lawsuit to knock state Rep. Sylvester Taylor, D-Blackjack, off the ballot in the Democratic primary in the 75th District. Gray argued that Taylor shouldn’t be allowed to run in the new 75th District, since his residence is located in the 67th District. St. Louis County Judge Steven Goldman denied Gray’s claim.
Elbert Walton – the attorney involved in Wright-Jones’ case against Nasheed – is Gray’s father. He is representing Gray in this case.
Taylor noted that the Missouri Constitution has different rules on who can run for a House seat after redistricting. The constitutional provision states that a candidate “shall have been a qualified voter for two years and a resident of the county or district which he is chosen to represent for one year, if such county or district shall have been so long established, and if not, then of the county or district from which the same shall have been taken.” That, Taylor said, means that he could run in any House district that's located in St. Louis County.
Gray filed a notice of appeal on Thursday. (End of update)