The stakes are high in the St. Louis County Council 3rd District race
The race to succeed St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch, a Republican who is not running for re-election, could be key to council composition and the future of the St. Louis County executive. , Sam Page..
Whether Page, who is heavily favored to keep her job, overtakes Republican Katherine Pinner in the fall, a victory for Democrat Vicki Englund will mean a better coalition on the board to push through her agenda. A victory for Republican Dennis Hancock could keep the opposition coalition that has frustrated Page for years.
Since 2021, Fitch has been part of a coalition with council members Rita Days, Mark Harder and Shalonda Webb that has criticized the way Page has run the county. Days and Webb are slated to return in 2023, while Harder represents a GOP-leaning district.
Englund and Hancock, however, run in a district that is evenly split between the two parties. Englund, a former state representative and school board member, noted that Joe Biden narrowly won the district in 2020.
The Sunset Hills Democrat, who worked for the St. Louis County Economic Development Agency in the 2000s, wants to bring a more cohesive spirit to a board that has had plenty of conflict over the past decade.
“We’re not just talking about the day-to-day role of the board. I mean, it’s clearly something that’s broken,” Englund said. “But we’re also talking about a lot of big decisions that have to be made with [federal relief] money, with the Rams settlement money and with the Opioid settlement money.
Englund notes that she has a good relationship with Page and served in the Missouri legislature at the same time as Days and Webb’s husband, former state representative Steve Webb.
“My opponent just seems to be the same voice as current Councilman Tim Fitch,” Englund said. “So it’s a clear choice for voters if they want more of the same or if they want someone who entered politics over 20 years ago and entered government service 20 years ago. 20+ years of trying to solve problems – not create them.”
Hancock also highlights his experience in government. He was mayor of Fenton from 2001 to 2013. He said experience working in the civic arena would be important, especially as county government often has a difficult relationship with its towns and cities.
“I understand their weak points, if you will,” Hancock said. “I understand where they’re coming from and what they’re trying to do.”
He also said if elected he would provide checks and balances over Page’s tenure as county executive – adding he’s ‘not running to be someone’s best friend’ .
“Having a government that goes forward, but moves slowly and carefully, and looks carefully at everything before you do anything, that’s how you get good government,” Hancock said, “rather than just run willy-nilly in today’s wind.
Both Englund and Hancock say they want to make economic development a major aspect of their potential service to the county council. They are also paying close attention to a potential effort from Manchester, which is the 3rd district, to annex unincorporated areas that Page spoke out against several weeks ago.
But an additional factor in how this race unfolds is the county executive contest.
Pinner scored a huge upset when she won the GOP primary against state Rep. Shamed Dogan, although she has not actively raised money or campaigned. Since St. Louis County is heavily Democratic, Page may have more leeway to use his campaign money to help Englund as well as 7th District Democratic hopeful Kristine Callis.
“I think it’s going to play a different role because… the county executive race doesn’t get as much attention as it would have,” Englund said.
Hancock said from what he’s heard from voters, the stakes are high.
“At the end of the day, I have to run my own campaign,” Hancock said. “And this campaign has to be about what I’m going to do if elected and convince the people of the 3rd District that I’m the best candidate of the two of us to represent their interests on the council.”
For his part, Page said the hostility between him and the council had subsided since he won a convincing victory in the Democratic primary against attorney Jane Dueker.
“I expect the same in November, not just in St. Louis County, but across the state and across the country,” Page said. “After the elections, people settle down, work together and take care of people’s business.”
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum