Four incumbents lose re-election in primaries for downsized Board of Aldermen in St. Louis

The city of St. Louis, Missouri, held nonpartisan primaries for the Board of Aldermen on March 7, 2023. All 14 seats on the board and the seat of the president of the board were up for election. The top two candidates in each primary advanced to an April 4 general election.

The 2023 primary was the first to take place under a new ward system that reduced the number of seats on the board from 28 to 14. The reduction in board size was part of Proposition R, a charter amendment passed by voters in 2012 that took effect on Jan. 1, 2022. In accordance with Proposition R, the board passed new ward maps in 2021.

Eighteen incumbents, including the board president, filed to run for re-election in the downsized board. Fourteen advanced to the general election. Four were defeated in the primary and did not advance to the general election. 

Ten incumbents did not seek re-election in 2023.  

As a result of the reduction in the size of the board, four wards—the 4th, 9th, 13th, and 14th—had multiple incumbents running against each other in the primary. 

Two wards—Ward 6 and Ward 7—were open, meaning no incumbents filed to run in those primaries. 

Two primaries were uncontested. Shane Cohn (the incumbent in Ward 25) ran for re-election unopposed in Ward 3. President of the Board Megan Ellyia Green also ran unopposed for re-election. 

The closest primary took place in the 9th Ward. Two incumbents—Tina Pihl (Ward 17) and Michael Gras (Ward 28)—were tied in second place with 868 votes each on Election Day. Pihl received eight additional votes after provisional ballots were counted, and advanced to the general election. Michael Browning, a Washington University School of Medicine staffer, finished in first place and also advanced.

Another initiative affecting the 2023 primary, Proposition D, was approved by voters in 2020. The measure made elections open and nonpartisan for the offices of mayor, comptroller, president of the Board of Aldermen, and the Board of Aldermen. The measure also changed the primary election system from plurality voting to approval voting, a voting system in which voters may vote for any number of candidates they choose. In St. Louis, the top two candidates in the primary advance to the general election.

Candidates elected in odd-numbered wards in 2023 will serve an initial two-year term and be eligible to run for four-year terms after that. Candidates elected in even-numbered wards will serve four-year terms. The president of the Board of Aldermen, a separate position elected at large, will also serve a four-year term.

The Board of Aldermen is St. Louis’ equivalent of a city council. It’s the city’s primary legislative body, responsible for adopting the city budget, levying taxes, and making or amending city laws, policies, and ordinances. The President of the Board is responsible for presiding over board meetings.

The filing deadline for this election was January 6, 2023. The general election is scheduled for April 4, 2023.