Yinka Faleti still remembers his first trial as a prosecutor, helping an 11-year-old boy open up and get justice after his teacher had been showing him pornography in the classroom. That was a driving force, Faleti said, for his service-minded career.
A graduate from West Point Military Academy, Faleti said the strive to help others is in his DNA. He served in the U.S. Army in Kuwait twice — both before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — before becoming a prosecutor. From there, Faleti has worked as a senior vice president at United Way, responsible for a division that raised more than $300 million for the St. Louis area, and as the second executive director of Forward Through Ferguson, a nonprofit formed after a police officer fatally shot Michael Brown in 2014.
Throughout each stint, Faleti — who has lived in St. Louis since 2004 — said he felt he needed to do more, to “get further upstream to where people are making the policies, where they’re either making people’s lives worse or making people’s lives better.”
“When you look at what people want, people want the government to get out of the way, and let them vote however they want to vote, for whatever candidate they want to vote for, for whatever issue they want to support. People don’t want the government in the way of that, and that’s not what we’ve had in this state,” Faleti, who is running as a Democrat, told The Missouri Times. “I’m running to ensure all Missourians, no matter what persuasion they are, have free, fair, and secure access to vote and that our ballot initiative process is protected, and the decisions that come out of it are honored.”
“This feels like the right fight for the right people at the right time,” Faleti said.
Specifically, Faleti noted Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s rejection of three abortion referendum petitions. The petitions sought to put Missouri’s abortion law to a vote of the people. Ashcroft denied the petitions, pointing to an emergency clause attached to HB 126 that allowed a portion of the bill to go into effect upon Gov. Mike Parson signing it.
A court ordered Ashcroft to withdraw his rejection and approve ballot language. He did so just two weeks before the deadline to collect signatures; ultimately the petitions failed.
“I don’t think it matters on what side people fall on on abortion,” Faleti said. “The government needs to get out of the way. [The] goverment’s job, and the secretary of state’s job, is to allow the people to exercise their voice and their choice — not to create barriers or thwart or hinder that process. I completely disagree with how that was handled; that was not democratic.”
Ashcroft, a Republican, has served as Missouri’s secretary of state since 2017; he was elected to the position. When asked about how he plans to take on Ashcroft, particularly given his name recognition, Faleti had one word: inclusion.
“Our approach is to run a campaign that engages Missourians from every corner of the state, from every persuasion, from every age group, from every demographic,” he said. “We want an inclusive and energizing and exciting campaign that everyone can see themselves in, whether they’re a farmer, whether they’re an autoworker, whether they’re a physician, a doctor, a teacher, a plumber. It doesn’t matter who they are; they ought to see themselves in this campaign.”
Financial disclosure documents for Faleti are not yet publicly available. On the other hand, Ashcroft reported nearly $254,000 cash on hand during the last filing deadline.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.