Clayton – Surrounded by a crowd of union leaders, St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger announced his campaign to challenge County Executive Charlie Dooley in the Democratic primary election next August.
Stenger’s announcement put the nail in a coffin that marked the end of a political relationship with Dooley that had been dead for several years after aides to Dooley all but shut the door on communications with Labor, which played a critical role in Dooley’s first election in 2004 and in his narrow 2010 victory.
DISAPPOINTED IN DOOLEY
Jeff Aboussie, executive Secretary treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, characterized labor’s growing troubles with Dooley.
“We have lacked any meaningful communication with the county executive’s office for the past two to three years,” he said. “Speaking for myself and I think a lot of others, we have become increasingly disappointed with him.”
Aboussie said he wasn’t worried that the rift in the Democratic Party caused by the contest between Stenger and Dooley could lead to the election of a Republican County Executive.
“Steve is a strong candidate with excellent qualifications. St. Louis County voters have shown they will support strong Democratic candidates. The greater danger is if Charlie stays in office. All this controversy could well lead to a Republican winning.”
The trades council and the St. Louis Labor Council announced last month that they would not support Dooley in his next campaign.
STRONG UNION TIES
Stenger represents the Sixth District in south St. Louis County. He is an attorney and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and has worked closely on the council with Mike O’Mara, an international officer and former business agent of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, and Pat Dolan, President of Sprinkler Fitters Local 268. Stenger grew up in a union family. His father was a lineman for Southwestern Bell
PULLING NO PUNCHES
Dooley’s administration has been wracked with several controversies in recent years. The most recent was the suicide of a high-ranking executive in the county’s health department who embezzled $3 million over a period of several years. The FBI is investigating the awarding of a construction contract for the county courthouse and jail to a close political ally and former chairman of the police board. It is also investigating finances in the St. Louis County Children’s Fund.
Stenger mentioned them during his announcement.
“We’ve seen in the health department alone, basically $3 million walking out the door for a phony company,” Stenger said. “Over the years, we’ve had quite literally millions upon millions of dollars wasted by the executive branch.”
Stenger handed out a flier with more than two dozen news accounts of mishandling of budgets and other controversies.
RESTORING PUBLIC TRUST
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch introduced Stenger with a scathing criticism of Dooley’s record. He said the scandals and every-day operation of the county government had caused widespread public distrust. He and many others in the county government had lost faith in Dooley’s leadership and competency. Stenger could be trusted to restore competency and leadership, and hopefully public trust, he said.
County police endorse Stenger
The St. Louis County Police Association (SLCPA) is the first union to officially endorse St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger in his bid to unseat incumbent County Executive Charlie Dooley, President Gabe Crocker announced last week.
“The Dooley Administration symbolizes everything that is wrong with government and the damage that has been done to St. Louis County is immeasurable,” Crocker stated, adding, “The Dooley Administration is toxic. The damage that has been done to this county by the Dooley Administration will take years to undo.”
Noting that Dooley refused to respond to a questionnaire and Stenger did, that after conferring with the union’s Legislative Committee the decision was made to back Councilman Stenger.
“The Dooley Administration is the proverbial ‘cement block shoes’ dragging this county and its police department to the bottom of the river. “
In an open letter to all county police officers, Crocker implored the members of his department to put aside national politics and party affiliation to support Steve Stenger.
“Councilman Stenger has been very supportive of our efforts across the board, has met with us on several occasions, and supports our ongoing efforts to collectively bargain a contract with St. Louis County for better pay and benefits,” the letter said.
“Our officers are angry. They are underpaid and they see the need for a drastic change in county leadership. They are really chomping at the bit (to support Stenger),” Crocker said.