Missouri senator a constant presence at Ferguson rallies

Friday, August 29, 2014 | 6:10 p.m. CDT

FERGUSON — Missouri state Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal has been a constant presence in Ferguson since a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old man.

Chappelle-Nadal, a self-proclaimed "unpopular" lawmaker in the Missouri Senate, has become more popular with some constituents since being involved in protests over the death of Michael Brown, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The 39-year-old Democrat from University City represents Ferguson in the state Senate.

Chappelle-Nadal has criticized Gov. Jay Nixon over his efforts to communicate with those protesting. She uses a cardboard cutout of the governor's head she calls "Flat Jay" at the rallies.

Nixon responded to the senator's comments at a news conference, saying, "I try to put gasoline into the engine of fire engines when I see them, not on the fires that are existing. I find doing that is more productive."

In 2004, Chappelle-Nadal was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives where she served until she won a primary for the Senate's 14th district in 2010. She is now running unopposed to keep her seat.

"I was raising money expecting (an opponent)," she said. "I'm controversial; I'm out of the box."

So far this year, Chappelle-Nadal has critiqued the governor on education and race issues and called for the removal of the education commissioner. She also has worked on legislation aimed at helping elderly residents.

Some protesters have asked Chappelle-Nadal to run for a higher office. The senator called it "flattering" but said she has not given it much thought.

"I've been totally focused on my Senate district and the severe challenges we've been facing," she said. "I haven't had time to think about higher office."

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