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Government, Politics & Issues

Page Wins Contentious Primary For St. Louis County Executive

2020 St. Louis County Executive primary election results
Kayla Drake
/
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Tuesday won the Democratic primary for the county's top elective office. He spoke to reporters after voting that morning at First Church of Christ Scientist in Creve Coeur.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page emerged victorious in the Democratic primary for the county’s top elected position Tuesday, beating back a bruising and expensive challenge from three opponents.

Page bested St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman, businessman Mark Mantovani and University City resident Jamie Tolliver. If he defeats Republican Paul Berry III in November, he will remain as county executive until the end of 2022. Page received 38% of the vote, while Mantovani got 29, Zimmerman 24 and Tolliver close to 8.

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The St. Louis County Council selected Page in 2019 to become county executive after Steve Stenger resigned while facing corruption charges. Page encountered a number of challenges in his roughly year and a half in office, including a nearly $20 million discrimination verdict involving the St. Louis County Police Department.

“When Steve Stenger resigned last year, he left behind an unfocused and demoralized government,” Page said in a Facebook live video after his victory. “It’s been my privilege to work with an extraordinary staff and a positive council to help reset our county’s moral compass and make sure we could serve all the people of St. Louis County.”

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and his wife, Dr. Jennifer Page, walk away from their polling station at the First Church of Christ Scientist in Creve Coeur early Tuesday morning, Aug. 4, 2020.
Kayla Drake / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and his wife, Dr. Jennifer Page, walk away from their polling station at the First Church of Christ Scientist in Creve Coeur early Tuesday morning, Aug. 4, 2020.

But Page’s biggest challenge turned out to be the coronavirus, which hit St. Louis County harder than any other place in Missouri. His administration enacted restrictions on businesses and a mask mandate. He also got the county council to give him control over how federal coronavirus relief funds are spent, a move that sparked widespread criticism from his adversaries.

Some Black elected officials heavily criticized Page on several fronts, including how a police board that he largely appointed didn’t choose Troy Doyle to become police chief. And Zimmerman contended that Page’s COVID-19 response was too slow in largely Black north St. Louis County, a charge that Page vigorously pushed back against.

The campaign to fill out the last two years of Stenger’s term was decidedly bitter, with Page, Zimmerman and Mantovani spending millions on television ads that sought to disparage their opponents — and boost their own candidacies.

Page had the support of most organized labor groups and some elected officials, while Mantovani received backing from the Carpenters Union and St. Louis Homebuilders Association. Zimmerman had endorsements from some notable Black officials, including County Councilwoman Rita Days, D-Bel Nor, and state Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City.

“For my part, I can say the campaign battles are all finished and the punches are thrown and forgotten,” Page said. “All differences are put aside so we can work together through a pandemic and an economic recovery — leaving no one behind.”

Jake Zimmerman, Democratic primary candidate for St. Louis County executive, votes while holding his 6-year-old son Gabriel at Old Bonhomme Elementary School in Olivette on Tuesday. “Are you voting for yourself, Dad?” Gabriel asked. Aug. 4, 2020
Kayla Drake / St. Louis Public Radio
Jake Zimmerman, Democratic primary candidate for St. Louis County executive, votes while holding his 6-year-old son Gabriel at Old Bonhomme Elementary School in Olivette on Tuesday. “Are you voting for yourself, Dad?” Gabriel asked.

In a statement, Zimmerman said: “We built a powerful movement fighting for change and accountability. But it wasn't enough to get us over the finish line.

“And right now, lives are at stake as we band together to fight a pandemic that threatens all of us. The virus doesn't care how anyone voted,” Zimmerman said. “So tonight, I congratulate Sam Page on his win and offer my support. He has difficult decisions to make in the days ahead. May he have the strength and wisdom to find the right path for this community.”

Even before he takes on Berry in the fall, Page will have to deal with rising cases of COVID-19. Before the election, he enacted more restrictions on businesses — including reducing the occupancy rates to 25%. He’s also recommended that schools start teaching virtually this fall.

Berry defeated Ed Golterman to capture the GOP nomination for county executive. Berry was the Republican nominee in 2018, losing to Stenger by just under 20 percentage points. To beat Page, he’ll have to reverse a trend in St. Louis County in which residents have drifted away from countywide Republican candidates and voted overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Webb, Dunaway prevail in St. Louis County Council race

One St. Louis County Council member lost the primary while another cruised to victory.

Shalonda Webb defeated 4th District Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray and Hazelwood School Board member Mark Behlmann, taking in about 43% of the vote.

Webb is a software manager for Boeing who had the support of some key political figures, including U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay and state Sen. Gina Walsh. She made refurbishing Jamestown Mall and increasing public safety priorities of her campaign.

The 4th District is overwhelmingly Democratic, so Webb will be heavily favored to win in November.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway, D-Chesterfield, fended off a challenge from Creve Coeur Mayor Barry Glantz in the Democratic primary for the 2nd District. Dunaway, who was filling out Page’s county council term, said she was better suited to uphold progressive values on the council.

Glantz, who had nearly run in 2019 for the county council seat as an independent, sought to promote himself as a consensus builder who could help solve big problems for the county.

Dunaway will be favored to win in November against Republican Jerry Bowen. The 2nd District includes parts of Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, Hazelwood, St. Ann and Overland — and is heavily Democratic.

State Rep. Bob Burns prevailed in the south St. Louis County-based 6th District's Democratic primary. Burns will square off against Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-south St. Louis County, in November.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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