Franks Defeats Hubbard: Political Earthquake, Slow Progress, or Much Ado About Nothing?

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Bruce Franks Jr

This past Friday, Bruce Franks, Jr. defeated Penny Hubbard for the 78th District Missouri State Representative seat. The victory was hard fought, and not in the way that all political victories are hard fought. Just 84 votes separated Franks and Hubbard in their August 2nd contest, which saw 4,296 votes counted. That result was immediately challenged. The focus was on the acquisition and delivery of absentee ballots. The August election counted 416 for Hubbard, 114 for Franks.

The margin of victory for Franks September 16 was nothing less than huge: 2,234 (76%) to 701 (24%). The turnaround margin speaks loudly. What, exactly, it says isn’t perfectly clear. The tempting conclusion is that with so much attention on the contest, the Hubbard political machine couldn’t game the system as it has in the past, that the September result is the “true” result. It could speak to the base enthusiasm of the candidate’s supporters. Though it would seem both would have been able to get their voters to the polls, that didn’t happen.

It’s more than interesting that with no other issue on the ballot in the special election, Franks was able to garner 128 more votes than in August. Hubbard totaled 1,489 fewer votes. Her supporters either sat this one out, or she never really had supporters. Of absentee votes cast, Hubbard received 58% instead of the 73% in August.

So what’s next? Penny Hubbard’s daughter Tammika is currently the 5th Ward Alderwoman in the City of St. Louis. Elected with 409 votes in a 2011 special election, Hubbard was re-elected in 2013 with 713 (55%) votes in the primary. She will be up for re-election next year. Will a challenger emerge for the ward that will likely wield out-sized influence in city development as the $1.7B National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) project kicks off? Will someone make the NorthSide Redevelopment project an issue?

Bruce Franks Jr. Beats Penny Hubbard in Special Election Landslide – The Riverfront Times

‘Thundering victory’ for Bruce Franks Jr. over Hubbard in special election – St. Louis American

Video–Bruce Franks victory speech – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Bruce Franks Jr. wins special election – KSDK

Bruce Franks wins ‘do-over’ election in St. Louis – Fox2Now

Franks easily defeats Hubbard in special election – The Missouri Times


The Riverfront Times has covered Franks in-depth:

To Save Black Lives, Protester Bruce Franks Will Do the Unthinkable: Work with Cops

FBI, Secretary of State Asking Questions About St. Louis Statehouse Race

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been very vocal in its coverage of the 78th District contest:

P-D investigation reveals multiple problems with absentee voting

Messenger: The check that never made it to Hubbards raises questions

What’s at stake in Hubbard-Franks do-over election

More problems reported in disputed election for 78th District in St. Louis

Editorial: Post-Dispatch endorses Bruce Franks Jr. in 78th District vote

And finally, the story of absentee ballots may not be over:

Another race won by a Hubbard in St. Louis challenged; absentee ballots again questioned

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  • I’m deeply conflicted about this outcome. On the one hand, the Hubbard clan has probably been breaking the law to keep its members in office, and this is a win for clean elections. But the city is trading a relatively senior, wired in legislator for a political newcomer with no government experience. The best case scenario is that Franks will be completely ineffective; maybe he’ll score a token victory on some Ferguson-related issue, but he’s not going to be able to bring in the kind of money we need. Worst case, Franks will be coopted by lobbyists whose aid he needs to navigate the legislative process.

    I sometimes wonder if we should require a law degree and several years of experience in government to be elected to the legislature. Sending laymen in there is asking for trouble.

    • Don

      Loss of clout is always the issue with change. But then there is this:

      We must have zero tolerance for this kind of self-dealing even if we pay a price. Exploiting loopholes in absentee voting at a time when voter access is in jeopardy is as unforgivable as selling your votes to funnel ‘work’ to your son. This kind of corruption destroys people’s faith in government. It’s just so shockingly cynical and I refuse to excuse it. Good government is good politics.

      I share your concerns about the new-comer but having broken the lock the Hubbards have enjoyed should make way for new faces if Mr. Franks finds himself in over his head.

    • Adam

      But what of any significance has Penny Hubbard accomplished lately?

      • Alex Ihnen

        It’s not clear to me when or where the wired state rep with lots of clout has brought the kind of funds and change needed for the district.

  • Adam

    will there be a follow-up criminal investigation of the Hubbards and Lacy Clay?

    • Don

      Was Lacy Clay involved in the collection and delivery of absentee ballots?

      • Adam

        not to my knowledge but based on what i’ve read/heard in the media he may have at least known what the Hubbards were up to.

    • there is a grand jury empaneled. However, it’s not clear that there’s enough evidence to secure an indictment. A lot of the allegations are second-hand and years old, and it seems unlikely there’s a smoking gun.