The eyes of the nation and the world have been fixated on the tiny St. Louis suburb of Ferguson Missouri in recent days. The shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer has brought racial tensions to the surface, almost to the boiling point. It is a case that has anyone who is even a little familiar with it taking sides, without the luxury of having all of the facts come in. Even when those facts are brought out, the outcome, whatever form it comes in, will never be accepted by those who have already come to their own conclusions.
Protestors marching, looting and rioting have been the pictures coming out of Ferguson by any media outlet that has been camped out there. It is sensational, it sells, and it gets ratings. But that is not the only interesting thing that might be found in Ferguson. When big stories break, it tends to bring out the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Usually that means politicians. Never being at a loss for words is an occupational hazard, and the politicians are never more than a camera length away to quickly give their two cents. Such is the case in Ferguson. Last week brought two Missouri State Senators to the spotlight. The first, Maria Chappelle-Nidal, who represents Ferguson, told Missouri Governor Jay Nixon what she thought of his handling of the entire situation on Twitter by giving him the old F. You. You stay classy Maria. Then there was State Senator Jamillah Nasheed. Nasheed is not in any way a representative for that area, but could not help herself to a few stirs of the racial pot. On national television with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, she proceeded to all but promise more violence unless St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCullough was not immediately removed from the case. According to Nasheed, McCullough can in no way handle this case impartially because his father, a police officer in St. Louis in the 1960’s was fatally shot by a black assailant.
Once again, this is not the real story. The real story lies behind the recent primary elections held in Missouri. The race for St. Louis County Executive is a big one, with this being the largest county by population in the state. The Democrat primary pitted incumbent Executive Charlie Dooley, versus St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger. Dooley, an African-American, was heavily backed by other black state legislators. Bob McCullough was not among those throwing his support behind Dooley, who lost handily to Stenger. The two have had several run-ins and have a bit of bad blood between them. Among those calling for the removal of McCullough from the case besides Jamillah Nasheed, Maria Chappelle-Nidal and Charlie Dooley.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and McCullough have had their spats as well. McCullough declared that Nixon had no state constitutional authority to remove St. Louis County Police from Ferguson after a night of heavy weaponry and tear gas soon after the shooting incident. Nixon removed County Police and brought in the Missouri Highway Patrol to assist Ferguson Police and other Police agencies in quelling the violence. Nixon has said however, that he will not remove McCullough from the case.
Of course one must keep in mind the future political aspirations of many of the players. There have been rumors of Nixon’s possible presidential run, or perhaps a spot on the short list of any 2016 Vice Presidential contenders. Chappelle-Nidal and Nasheed, both state senators, will run up against term limits, and both names have been linked to possible primaries against William “Lacy” Clay (D), who represents Missouri’s first congressional district. Whether Bob McCullough has any future political plans may depend on the outcome of this case.
The fallout from this case will, in many different ways, last for quite a while.