ST. LOUIS – Small business owner and community activist Bruce Franks beat three-time state Rep. Penny Hubbard in a special election for the Democratic 78th House District primary. He won by a wide margin of 2,234 votes to 701, over 75 percent.
The special election came after a challenge by Franks alleging absentee ballot fraud committed by the Hubbard campaign. While a judge did not find evidence of fraud on Hubbard’s part, he did find that the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners had erred when it came to holding early absentee in-person voting.
Hubbard again won the absentee ballot count Friday night with 95-69, but turnout heavily favored Franks in his three-to-one margin of victory. His 90-vote loss in the initial, discarded election showed he could contend with the highly influential Hubbard family, but he felt the high turnout his candidacy experienced in the special election spoke volumes of his supporters.
“It was hectic, but it was easy when you’ve got the excitement and the energy that we have,” Franks said, gesturing to the packed restaurant. “We didn’t have to go out and get them. The community, they came, and they’ve been there for the whole fight.”
He and his supporters celebrated at Yaquis on Cherokee which was filled with hundreds of supporters who even overflowed onto the sidewalks on a rainy night. Franks led the crowd in a round of chants he has used over the course of his campaign.
“They think it’s a game,” he said. “This is what democracy looks like.”
The win was a victory for progressive Democrats. Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, an early Franks supporter, was ecstatic when the deafening roar went through the restaurant as the final results were released.
“This is unreal,” she said. “This is a paradigm shift and the have spoken against the establishment. This is a message.”
The Revolution is real. The people WON. The Establishment LOST!
— MariaChappelleNadal (@MariaChappelleN) September 17, 2016
Franks received congratulations from multiple elected officials who have come to support him over the past few weeks and beyond. Rep. Michael Butler attended the event, and Rep. Bill Otto visited with Franks as well. Peter Merideth, who won a primary six weeks ago to represent the 80th District said he had been a Franks fan from the beginning and he was looking forward to working with him in Jefferson City.
“He comes from a community whose voice is unheard, but he gets heard,” Merideth said, going on to explain that he speaks with a member of the community the same way he speaks with Mayor Francis Slay or Police Chief Sam Dotson.
Franks also credited his lawyer David Roland for his work in obtaining the special election.
“I did not have an attorney, I had a superhero,” Franks said. “He fought, he lost sleep, he lost time with his wife and daughters.”
In the general election, Franks will face off against Republican Erik Shelquist, but the district is heavily Democratic.