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Dooley Stands Firm: No Debates Unless Stenger Releases More Tax Returns

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(Updated 11:30 p.m. Thursday, May 29)

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley says he’s not budging from his stance that he won’t agree to any debates or forums this summer with County Councilman Steve Stenger until Stenger releases more details on his taxes.

“There’s no reason for Charlie to engage with his opponent until his opponent has been as transparent with the voters as Charlie has been,’’ said Dooley campaign spokeswoman Linda Goldstein.

Dooley and Stenger are running for the Democratic nomination for county executive in the Aug. 5 primary. St. Louis Public Radio is among the news outlets that have offered to host a forum.  Dooley's stance is taking on greater urgency because any major debate or forum would require weeks to set up.

For months, Stenger has been pressing Dooley to agree to debates or forums. He has called the tax-return link a “red herring’’ that allows Dooley to avoid discussing various controversies.

"We have said yes to Charlie Brennan at KMOX, McGraw Milhaven at KTRS, Mark Reardon at KMOX and we are gonna say yes to Chancellor George as well," said Stenger spokesman Ed Rhode.
The issue, as Stenger's camp sees it, is that "we are saying 'yes' to everyone and Dooley is saying 'no' to everyone."
In March, Dooley released copies of nine years of state and federal tax returns, going back to 2003, and he has since made public his latest return for 2013.

Stenger has released copies of his federal returns since 2007, saying he couldn’t issue details of his earlier taxes because he had jointly filed with his former wife.  Stenger, a lawyer, has not released copies of his state returns or any tax returns filed with the city of St. Louis, where he has conducted some legal business.

Dooley's campaign contends that Stenger should, at minimum, make public his state and city tax returns because they can provide more detail into the councilman's finances.

Stenger, in turn, maintains that Dooley is simply looking for ways to avoid talking about any other issue.

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