Turnout Is Key to What Could Be a Historic Election Day in Ferguson

The election is the first since Michael Brown's death.

Long before the world ever heard the names Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, Ella Jones was laying the groundwork for a Ferguson City Council bid to represent the residents of Ward 1.

"I decided two-and-a-half years ago to run for city council. I knew the city needed to make some changes and I wanted to be a part of that," Jones told

Her competition for the open seat includes Adrienne Hawkins, who also is African-American, and two white men, Mike McGrath and Doyle McClellan. If elected, either Jones or Hawkins will become the first African-American woman to serve on the council.

Jones feels confident that she will be the victor in the April 7 election, in part because she has been an active member of the community. She is president of the Ferguson Township Open Democratic Club and serves on the Ferguson Human Rights Commission. In addition, the 36-year resident, who also has worked as a chemist, stepped down from her job as a longtime sales director for Mary Kay in January to focus full-time on her campaign.

"I watched her before the killing of Mike Brown work feverishly to try to put together the human rights commission for Ferguson," said Patricia Bynes, a Democratic Party committeewoman for Ferguson Township. "It's just one topic related to community building that she's been very passionate about. She's been doing a lot of work for years."

At a recent candidate forum, the contenders were asked about their community involvement before Aug. 9. Two of them couldn't raise their hands, Jones said.

"I raised my hand because I've been active. I've been voting. I didn't wait until the Mike Brown shooting. I vote in presidential elections, all the local elections and the primaries," she said. "I cast my vote at every opportunity, especially in the local elections because they affect our lives more."

According to Jones, Ward 1 is a diverse community that includes an African-American population of about 30-40 percent. In addition to promoting her ideas on economic development and community policing, she says she's also asking for residents' input on their needs and what they believe the city should be doing.

"I think people are going to pick the person best qualified and I am looking forward to representing the residents of Ward 1 on the city council," Jones said. "I'm out here working, I'm out here listening to people and we can make a difference when we cast our votes. It's very important for everyone to cast their vote on April 7."

Bob Hudgins, who hopes to represent the city's second ward, is white and has been an active member of the Ferguson protest scene. In addition to participating in demonstrations, he helped initiate a petition to recall Mayor James Knowles.

"Even though God put him in white skin, he understands the issues of the Black community," says Bynes.

Hudgins told that even as a privileged white teenager he identified with the African-American experience and has always kept his eyes open to the disparities Blacks have faced. In addition, his ex-wife is African-American and they are raising a biracial teenage son.

"White folks won't face what they've done," he said. "I accept what Black folks say about the state of our country and want to do something about it."

Hudgins is running against Brian Fletcher, a former Ferguson mayor. The political activist says his opponent helped the city get to the unfortunate place it is today. Like many of the candidates running for seats on the council, Hudgins believes the city needs more African-American police officers. He also says the "courts need to get out of the business of ruining people's lives over traffic tickets and I'd like to fix the darn roads and horrible infrastructure."

And like other candidates, Hudgins is worried about turnout, especially among Blacks, who make up about two-thirds of the ward's population. In the 2013 municipal election cycle, turnout for whites was 17 percent and 6 percent for Blacks. Last year, just 17 percent of the city's registered voters went to the polls.

"I'm terribly worried about that. Interest from the national media is soaring, but I don't have the same feeling about my people in Ward 2," Hudgins said. "That's where the anger and dichotomy comes in. People aren't going to turn out the way the people around the country think."

Jones is much more optimistic.

"I believe that African-American voters will turn out. I just believe it," she says. "I'm going to help them. Those who don't have a way [to get to the polls], all they have to do is call me and I will find a way to get them [there]."

Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.

BET Politics - Your source for the latest news, photos and videos illuminating key issues and personalities in African-American political life, plus commentary from some of our liveliest voices. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter. 

(Photos from Left: Ella M Jones, Bob Hudgins via Twitter)

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.