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Cunningham Not Running For County Executive, Says GOP Backing Someone Else

Provided by Mrs. Cunningham

Former state Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Republican from Chesterfield, announced Wednesday that she’s not going to run for St. Louis County Executive – ending several weeks of speculation.

Cunningham said she was doing so because the county GOP is “unifying around our best candidate” who she declined to identify.

“I don’t want him to feel like he has to run against me in order to be the Republican candidate,” Cunningham added.

She said that she supported the unnamed soon-to-be candidate and that she believes most area Republicans, and others, would like the GOP choice as well.

Cunningham has been considered among the best known of Republicans considering the post, now held by longtime incumbent Charlie Dooley, a Democrat seeking re-election this year.

County Republicans have approached several businessmen about seeking the post, including former Wells Fargo chief executive Danny Ludeman and former Clayton city manager Mike Schoedel.

Two Republicans already have filed for the post: Green Park Alderman Tony Pousosa and Ellisville Councilman Matt Pirrello. Candidate filing for the August primary and November general election ends next Tuesday.

Cunningham contended that Republicans have a shot at capturing the county’s top job, which has been held by a Democrat since 1991. Dooley has been county executive since 2003, but his administration has been plagued by several controversies and employee misdeeds during the past two years.

Dooley faces a primary challenge from County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton.  Dooley is the featured guest on St. Louis Public Radio's latest Politically Speaking podcast, posted Wednesday. Cunningham was a guest last year.

Cunningham announced her decision in the offices of the Monarch Fire Protection District, where she has been a member of the governing board for about a year. Cunningham has emphasized her fiscal conservatism and her willingness to challenge the firefighters union.

She said she had been committed to remaining on the board even if she did run and win election to county executive, although she acknowledged that legally she would have had to forgo the $140,000 in pay, plus benefits, that the county executive receives annually.

Even so, Cunningham hasn’t ruled out seeking another elective post this year. She told reporters that she is still contemplating a possible run for the 26th District state Senate seat, which is now open as the result of Republican incumbent Brian Nieves’ decision not to seek re-election.

The district takes in much of her old 7th District, which was moved across the state during the 2011 redistricting of legislative seats.  But Cunningham has said she won’t seek that post either, if House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, decides to run for the post.  Jones has made no secret of his interest, but had yet to file as of Wednesday.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.