5 Things to know about Wesley Bell, Democratic pick for St. Louis County prosecutor

He will run unopposed in the general election in November.

Wesley Bell stunned the country with a surprise victory over seven-term incumbent Bob McCulloch in the Democratic primary for St. Louis County prosecutor.

Wesley Bell thegrio.com
Wesley Bell

Wesley Bell‘s stunning victory over seven-term incumbent Bob McCulloch in the Democratic primary for St. Louis County prosecutor has put Ferguson, MO back on the national radar.

On August 9, 2014, white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot a killed an unarmed Black teenager named Michael Brown. Just days later, McCulloch (who ran unopposed) won another term as St. Louis County prosecutor.

His failure to secure an indictment of Wilson added fuel to a raging fire of racial tension that exploded into several days of protest in Ferguson. The unrest gripped national headlines and further solidified the Black Lives Matter movement.  There were calls for McCulloch to step down.

It is against this backdrop that four years later almost to the day of Michael Brown’s death that Wesley Bell (a Black man) did what most political observers thought was impossible: he unseated McCulloch.

READ MORE: Black Ferguson city councilman wins unseats long-time incumbent St. Louis County prosecutor

As of now, Bell will head into November’s general election unopposed since there is no Republican candidate.

Here are five things to know about Wesley Bell, the presumptive winner of the St. Louis County prosecutor seat:

1. City Councilman
Bell, 43, sits on the Ferguson City Council. He was elected in 2015 at a time when the city still bore the physical scars of the days of unrest the previous year. He ran on a platform that centered on reform and holding government agencies accountable.

2. Son of a Police Officer
Like McCulloch, Bell is also the son of a police officer. His mother works for St. Louis County. Bell says his upbringing instilled in him a “deep appreciation for law enforcement and public service.”

3. Legal Background
The University of Missouri-Columbia law school graduate was a St. Louis county public defender and later started his own criminal defense firm. Previously, Bell served as a municipal judge in a small city near Ferguson. He presided over cases in traffic court, doling out warnings or fines to the people pleading their cases before him.

4. Cash Bail
Perhaps partly owing to his first-hand dealings with the law, Bell is proposing the elimination of the cash bail system.  He explained his stance to the New York Times: “If you take nonviolent offenders with drug addiction in jail, you’re only increasing the likelihood that they will reoffend. If we continue to incarcerate poor and economically challenged people with drug habits, if you take people with mental health problems and don’t give them the mental health that they need, they’re going to reoffend — and that’s what’s driving our crime rates up.”

5. Obama Connection
When Bell was first elected to the Ferguson City Council, he worked with with Barack Obama’s Department of Justice implement the changes the department had mandated for the purposes of straightening out the city’s criminal justice system.