Tags: Election Coverage 2018
Wesley Bell Ousts 27-Year Prosecutor Robert McCulloch
Wesley Bell (click for larger version)
August 09, 2018
One of the biggest surprises of Tuesday's primaries in St. Louis County came when Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell beat longtime St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch.
Bell, 43, ended McCulloch's 27-year run as the county prosecutor when he garnered 56.6 percent of the votes. With no candidate from another political party in the race, Bell will run unopposed in November and become the first African-American to hold the office.
"People keep saying, 'You shocked the world,'" Bell told supporters late Tuesday night at his watch party. "No – we shocked the world. People showed up and showed out."
Bell's victory, and the margin by which he won, caught political science professors and analysts off guard, many of whom had predicted McCulloch would cruise into an eighth term.
McCulloch, 67, of Kirkwood, gained national attention, as well as criticism, over his handling of the grand jury inquiry into the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer in August 2014.
Bell, who has served as a public defender, city attorney for Wellston, municipal judge in Velda City, a prosecutor in Riverview and a criminal justice professor at St. Louis Community College, ran his campaign on reforming the criminal justice system.
Bell said as a Ferguson councilman and the son of a police officer, he's committed to reforming municipal courts and promoting community policing. He wants to end the cash bail system for non-violent offenders, and plans to expand witness service programs and improve county services for crime victims.
Bell had backing from several groups including Indivisible St. Louis, St. Louis Young Democrats and others. Although the ACLU does not endorse or oppose particular candidates, it spent more than $244,000 to educate St. Louis County voters about where Bell and McCulloch stood on various civil rights issues.
Following Bell's victory, the ACLU released a statement saying voters recognized the need for "smart justice reform."
The ACLU has already penned a letter to the prosecuting attorney outlining the smart justice practices it would like to see the office adopt and hopes to meet with Bell sometime in the next month.
"These results demonstrate that voters care passionately about crucial civil rights issues from the unjust use of cash bail to how long people are sitting in our jails because they can't afford to pay, to demanding their prosecuting attorney be transparent in his office's work," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri.