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Two black candidates elected to Ferguson city council

Two black candidates are among three people elected to the Ferguson City Council, substantially increasing the suburb's African-American representation.
Rich Baranowski, left, and Tracy Hardy vote in Ferguson's municipal election, April 7, 2015, in Ferguson, Mo. (Photo by Jeff Roberson/AP)
Rich Baranowski, left, and Tracy Hardy vote in Ferguson's municipal election, April 7, 2015, in Ferguson, Mo.

Voters in Ferguson, Missouri, elected two African-American candidates to City Council Tuesday in the first election since Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer. The shooting set off an explosion of protests and sparked a national conversation about race and policing.

The election of Wesley Bell and Ella Jones to Council means three of the body's six members will be African-American, NBC station KSDK reported. Until Tuesday, five of the six members were white.

Bell, a professor and local magistrate, was elected to Ward 3. Bell beat Lee Smith, who is also black, with nearly 67 percent, according to unofficial results. Ward 3 covers the neighborhood in which Brown, 18, was shot by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.

"This community came out in record numbers to make sure our voices were heard," said councilman-elect Bell. "When you have a community engaged, the sky is the limit."

Jones became the second African-American elected to Council Tuesday, getting nearly 50 percent of the vote to beat three other candidates for the Ward 1 seat. She will replace Kim Tihen, a police officer who stepped down from the council after her name was mentioned in the Department of Justice's scathing report.

Former mayor Brian Fletcher, who is white, beat another white candidate, Robert Hudgins, for the third contested Council seat with almost 57 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

Turnout in Ferguson was 29 percent Tuesday, more than double the 12 percent that showed up to the polls in the last municipal election in 2014, KSDK reported.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III was not up for reelection this year. He has consistently denied that there was systematic racism or discrimination in the city.

The Justice Department report said blacks were unfairly targeted by police for traffic violations, and that some in government encouraged ever-increasing court fees and fines to finance the city.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, City Manager John Shaw and Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmyer resigned after being named in the report. Two police officers also quit, and the city's top court clerk was fired.

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