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Democratic Candidates Compare Thoughts on St. Louis County Executive Campaign

March 09, 2018 - 8:37 am
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The race for county executive is on.  St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is up for re-election this fall, but before he gets to November he has to get through the Democratic primary, where he faces a challenge from marketing and tech executive Mark Mantovani.

 

Mantovani says he decided to run, not to oust Stenger, but because of the region's lack of progress over the decades

"I had made the determination that the incumbent wasn't an effective leader because the community wasn't progressing to my satisfaction," he says.  "My focus is on the fact that our children are leaving this community, they're not returning back after college if they're fortunate enough to go to college, and we're in a state of decline relative to others."

He cites stats from the University of Virginia which forecast growth over the next 25 years to be an eighth of one percent for St. Louis and 15 percent for Kansas City. Mantovani also thinks the County Executive's office has been underutilized -- small thinking used to push individual projects forward but not as much strategic thinking and not inspiring people to better appreciate the region, and that he was disappointed with Stenger's decision not to provide support for a Major League Soccer stadium downtown, which resulted in MLS passing on the region altogether.

 

Stenger, for his part, says he's been a leader on several important issues, including statewide, on the heroin and opioid crisis.

"When the state of Missouri refused to act, I initiated a prescription drug monitoring program for St. Louis county, which was the first jurisdiction in the state a to adopt comprehensive database to monitor the sale of prescription drugs, including opioids, that cause addiction," he says. 

Stenger says since he was elected, there's been billions of dollars in economic development:

"St. Louis County has brought in over $5 billion in economic development since 2016 and created over 36,000 jobs, and that's the creation of jobs and the retention of jobs," he says. 

Stenger also notes that he spearheaded the passage of Proposition P, which led to increased salaries and more police officers to fight crime.

 

Stenger also likes to point out that Mantovani has donated thousands to Republican candidates, including Gov. Eric Greitens.

"This is not an individual who should be running in the Democratic primary. What I would call for him to do is get into the Republican primary because that's where really, with his record, that's where he's most appropriately placed," he says. 

Mantovani says he donates to candidates individually, and in St. Louis County he believes Democratic solutions are the best solutions.

"This whole thing about people not being able to grow and expand their perspective over time is incredibly cynical, it seems to me. A guy stands up and says that somebody is a republican because they contributed to a republican campaign somewhere along the line, that doesn't make them a republican," he says. 

 

As for a city-county merger, Stenger says he's waiting for more information before making a decision.

"We endorsed a study that is looking into that right now. When the study should be done sometime this year, we'll know a lot more then," he says. 

But Stenger says he doesn't like hearing that St. Louisans in the city and county are overspending by about 700 million dollars a year on extra layers of government.

 

Mantovani has a similar view.

"We have to acknowledge that this is just one place, this is just St. Louis. To the whole rest of the country, to the whole rest of the world, this is St. Louis, and these narrow parochial boundaries and distinctions that we have are out of step with the way that the rest of the world thinks about us," he says. 

But Mantovani says this isn't like a corporate merger. He prefers the city re-entering the county to become its 91st municipality. He also says the region has never had a legislative body that represents everybody, and can think about the big picture across Skinker. He hopes that can be the County Council.