A coalition of black officials and leaders in North County has endorsed Assessor Jake Zimmerman in the race for St. Louis County executive.
The Fannie Lou Hamer Coalition of St. Louis County announced Monday that it is supporting Zimmerman over two Democratic opponents in the August primary, incumbent County Executive Sam Page, Mark Mantovani and Jamie Tolliver.
The North County coalition endorsed Mantovani when he previously ran for county executive in August 2018 against then-County Executive Steve Stenger. The group formed in 2014 to oppose Stenger’s bid for county executive, and in that race, the coalition supported the Republican candidate, Rick Stream.
Even with that history of going against the norm, the endorsement of Zimmerman was somewhat surprising given that one of the founders of Fannie Lou Hamer, county diversity director Hazel Erby, works for Page’s administration. The press release announcing the Zimmerman endorsement was sent out by Vinita Park Mayor James McGee.
“This endorsement was not automatic, nor did it come without deep consideration,” the group said in its announcement.
The coalition said that its members met with all four Democratic candidates and put out an unanswered request to meet with the Republican side. All candidates were asked the same set of questions and were graded according to their answers, the coalition said. Their answers to any followup questions were considered in the case of a tie.
When all of the grades were tallied, the group said the “choice was clear” that Zimmerman was their candidate.
“For years, the African American community in St. Louis County has been ignored or made an afterthought. Our voices are not heard and the agendas of many candidates have not spoken to our needs,” the coalition said. “Jake’s agenda speaks to the needs of all St. Louis County residents. Jake believes in fairness, equal pay, job equality and equality in health. These are all of the issues that are important to North County. He also believes in being honest with us, and not giving pacifying answers so that we will just go away. Our mayors and other elected officials will have accessibility to his office as well as input on the issues that directly affect our community. His commitment to accessibility is valuable as we are oftentimes the last to know about decisions being made that affect us. Jake promises to be transparent and truthful, regardless of whether or not the truth hurts.”
The coalition said it was impressed with what it characterized as Zimmerman’s commitment to address police reform. The organization said it believes Zimmerman will work to require that officers give civilians their name, badge number, reason for the stop and a card with instructions for filing a complaint. He also believes that the response to mental health crises should be led by mental health professionals, with a goal of reducing police use-of-force, the coalition said.
In addition, Zimmerman promises to end the practice in St. Louis County of accepting military equipment from the federal government and using it to address protestors and civil unrest, Fannie Lou Hamer said. He will also work to end racial profiling and ensure that their police department provides the best training and is accountable to the communities they serve, the members of the group said.
Finally, they believe Zimmerman will strengthen accountability at the county jail, where five inmates have died over the past year.
Members of the Fannie Lou Hamer Coalition said they sat down with Zimmerman personally after the interviews, and he “reaffirmed his commitment to our community on all of these issues. We are not asking for anything special. We are asking for fair treatment, inclusiveness and an end to business as usual in St. Louis County. We believe in Jake and we are committed to working hard to ensure that he is elected. We appreciate your trust in us and ask that on August 4th vote for Jake Zimmerman for County Executive. He is the right candidate at the right time.”