Three incumbents lose in first general election for downsized St. Louis’ Board of Aldermen

St. Louis, Missouri, held general elections for the Board of Aldermen on April 4, 2023. All 14 seats on the board and the seat of the president of the board were up for election. Eleven incumbents, including Board President Megan Ellyia Green, won re-election. Three incumbents were defeated.

The 2023 elections were the first to take place under a new ward system that reduced the number of seats on the board from 28 to 14. Voters approved Proposition R, a charter amendment requiring the size reduction, in 2012, and the board enacted a new 14-ward map in 2021.

Ahead of the election, KDSK’s Sam Clancy and Mark Maxwell wrote, “For more than a century, 28 members of the Board of Aldermen governed the City of St. Louis. Those days are almost over.”

“Ward reduction changes have been in the making for more than a decade after voters approved the plan back in 2012. ‘Aldergeddon’ has already claimed casualties. A handful of incumbents opted not to seek re-election, shying away from a sharp-elbowed brawl against their colleagues to prolong their political career and others were defeated in the primary,” Clancy and Maxwell said. 

As a result of the reduction in board size, ten incumbents did not seek re-election in 2023. Additionally, two wards—Ward 13 and Ward 4—featured incumbent vs. incumbent races.

The three incumbents who lost were:

  • Joe Vaccaro (the incumbent in Ward 23): Vaccaro lost to fellow incumbent Bret Narayan (Ward 24) 55% to 45% in the election for the new Ward 4.
  • Norma Walker (Ward 22): Walker lost to incumbent Pamela Boyd (Ward 27) 54% to 46% in the election for the new Ward 13.
  • Tina Pihl (Ward 9): Pihl lost to Washington University staffer Michael Browning 63% to 36% in the election for the new Ward 9.

Per Proposition R, 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.

Another initiative affecting the 2023 election, 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. Nonpartisan primaries took place on March 7, 2023, and the top two candidates in each primary advanced to a general election.

The Board of Aldermen is St. Louis’ equivalent of a city council. It is 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.

St. Louis also held a nonpartisan general election for a seat on the community college board on April 4, 2023. Nicole Robinson defeated Incumbent Pam Ross in that election. The filing deadline for that election was Dec. 27, 2022.