Democrat Yinka Faleti, a former nonprofit executive, prosecutor and Army officer who has never before sought public office, has joined the race to take on Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft in 2020.
“Voting is the new frontier in the fight for democracy in our state,” he said.
“And when you think about over the last couple years, the terrific victories the people have realized in this state have come through the ballot initiative process,” Faleti said. “Clean Missouri. Right to work. Medical marijuana. The minimum wage. All ballot initiatives.”
Born in Nigeria, Faleti immigrated to the United States when he was seven. He grew up Florida and Texas, and earned admittance to The U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1994.
He graduated in 1998, eventually serving six years in the U.S. Army and deploying to Kuwait in early 2001 and again after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In 2004, he moved to St. Louis to attend Washington University School of Law. He said he intended to return to the Army upon graduation, but instead took a position at the Bryan Cave law firm.
After some time with the firm, however, he decided to make a change.
“I missed having a mission, like I did in the Army,” he said. “I missed the size of that mission. I figured the best way I could serve was to use my legal skills to help people. So I went to be a prosecutor in the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office. And I absolutely loved that job.”
He eventually left the prosecutor’s office to help lead the United Way of Greater St. Louis.
In 2018, he became executive director of Forward Through Ferguson. Faleti said the nonprofit’s mission was to “move the greater St. Louis region toward equity in all things” in the aftermath of the 2014 protests over the killing of teenager Michael Brown by a police officer.
The work was rewarding, he said, but “we could work our tails off, but we weren’t the ones writing the laws.”
“And that’s why I’m running.”
Faleti is the first Democrat to enter the race. If he won the nomination, he would take on Ashcroft, a first-term Republican and son of former U.S. Attorney General and Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft.