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Politically Speaking: Councilman Trakas on his rancorous entry into St. Louis County politics

St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas
Alex Heuer I St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies welcomes St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas on the program for the first time.

The Republican from south St. Louis County was elected to the 6th District council seat in 2016. He represents a part of largely unincorporated south St. Louis, which means that he makes many of the development and zoning decisions for the area.

An attorney, Trakas had never run for public office before 2016. He ran in an open race for the 6th District against former state Rep. Patricia Yaeger, a Democrat who had a lot of support from elected officials and labor unions. But Trakas ended up winning by a small margin, and he became the first Republican to represent the 6th District seat since 2008.

Since joining the Council, Trakas allied with three Democrats to block much of St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s agenda. He’s even differed with the Council’s two other Republicans on certain issues. But since that time, he’s been subject to a recall effort that could jeopardize his ability to finish off his term.

Here’s what Trakas said during the show:

  • His opposition to Stenger on a number of issues is likely why he’s facing a recall effort. If organizers of that bid manage to get enough signatures, Trakas said he’s prepared to go to court to challenge the validity of the recall.
  • Still, Trakas doesn’t regret his decision to run for the St. Louis County Council. “I probably am disappointed with how much rancor there is, how much misdirection,” he said.
  • Trakas said some council members are interested in changing the county’s campaign finance laws. For instance, he said council members may consider capping donations to county candidates. As of now, candidates for county executive or the County Council may take donations of unlimited size.
  • Trakas said he’s opposed to any effort to place a plan merging St. Louis and St. Louis County on a statewide ballot.” My biggest concern is this attempt to bypass the voters that are affected by it,” he said. “There’s something undemocratic and un-American about that.”

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Music: “Knights of Cydonia” by Muse

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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