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Politically Speaking: St. Louis County Executive Stenger makes case for re-election

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
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St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger to the program.

The Democratic chief executive of Missouri’s largest county is running for a second four-year term. His main opposition is in the Democratic primary this August, where businessman Mark Mantovani is seeking to oust him. There are no well-known Republicans seeking the office.

Stenger spent about six years serving on the St. Louis County Council. He represented the 6th District, which mainly includes unincorporated south St. Louis County. In 2014, he successfully challenged incumbent St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley — a fellow Democrat -- in a bitter contest that caused a racial split. Stenger then fended off a strong Republican opponent, then-state Rep. Rick Stream.

Since then, Stenger believes he’s accomplished a lot in four years — pointing to the establishment of a prescription drug monitoring program and billions of dollars worth of economic development projects. He’s also proud of Proposition P, a half-cent sales tax for police and public safety service that county voters approved in April 2017.

But Stenger has also encountered some major opposition on the St. Louis County Council. A four-person coalition of primarily Democrats has opposed major and minor initiatives from Stenger. Most recently, Stenger and the council got into a dispute over how to deliver raises for nurses that work in the county’s Justice Center.

That acrimony is likely to continue even if Stenger wins another term, as most of the council will still consist of members who are hostile to him.

Here’s what he said during the show:

  • Stenger said the acrimony on the council is in response to what he characterizes as his strong leadership. He contended that pressing  forth with major initiatives will sometimes provoke pushback. “And what I have done is to do my very best to have an agenda that is for the people of St. Louis County,” he said.
  • He said that he plans to “work like hell” to make sure Missouri’s right to work law is overturned in August, when he’ll be running against Mantovani. Some believe that placing right to work during the primary season will help Stenger, who has support from labor unions.
  • Stenger recently vetoed a proposed charter amendment that would set campaign contribution limits for county-based offices. While he supports the general idea of donation limits, he believes the charter amendment will not hold up in court and provides an unfair advantage to candidates who use their own money to finance most of their campaign.
  • He also defended the decision to revamp Northwest Plaza, an issue that’s become a major source of contention in his campaign with Mantovani. Stenger contends the redevelopment provided economic development and jobs for a distressed area. Mantovani said the project occurred at the behest of campaign donors, which Stenger flatly denies.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Steve Stenger on Twitter: @stevestenger

Music: "The New" by Interpol

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
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.

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