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Politically Speaking: McCulloch lays out case to be re-elected St. Louis County prosecutor

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch. Photo taken July 24, 2018 for his Politically Speaking appearance
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch joined the Politically Speaking team to talk about his bid for re-election to an eighth term.

McCulloch is one of the longest-serving elected officials in Missouri. He’s squaring off against Ferguson City Councilman Wesley Bell in the Aug. 7 primary. Because no Republican filed for the position, the winner of the August contest is all but guaranteed a four-year term.

McCulloch has been St. Louis County’s prosecutor since January 1991, when he took over for fellow Democrat Buzz Westfall. McCulloch has faced little opposition for his job ever since; he hasn’t had a Republican opponent since 1994, although he did face an intra-party challenge in 2014 from attorney Leslie Broadnax.

Before the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer, McCulloch was one of the more popular elected officials from the St. Louis region. Many high-level Democratic officials, including U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and state Attorney General Chris Koster, actively sought his political endorsement. In fact, many believe McCulloch’s endorsement of then-County Councilman Steve Stenger for county executive n 2014 helped end St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley’s long political career.

But Brown’s death put McCulloch in the spotlight, as he faced immense criticism after former Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson wasn’t indicted. That may be why national groups have endorsed Bell and are organizing for him, although none has yet directly contributed money. (McCulloch talked about the Wilson case extensively in a 2015 edition of Politically Speaking.)

Here’s what McCulloch had to say on this week’s show:

  • He emphasized Bell’s lack of experience. “My new prosecutors all start off doing what a municipal prosecutor does, and that’s handling traffic offenses and other relatively minor other offenses,” he said. “They are certainly not going to be put in positions of, now you’re a supervisor because you’ve done the traffic docket.”
  • His office has adopted several progressive policies over the years, including participating in special courts for drug treatment, veterans and individuals with mental health challenges. And he emphasized that contrary to a radio ad from the ACLU of Missouri, he has eliminated the use of cash bail for low-level crimes. “I think they’ve adopted the philosophy that hey, anybody who’s been there a long time is the problem, and therefore we’re opposed to them, no matter what they’re doing,” he said of the ACLU.
  • The fight over an increase to his pension was nothing more than “an opportunity for a councilman or two to take a run at Stenger,” and he got caught in the crossfire.
  • He ruled out any plans to run for higher office. “I have no intention of running for anything other than prosecuting attorney,” he said. “This is the job that I want, and I think in the 28 years I’ve been here, I’ve done a very good job.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Bob McCulloch on Twitter: @BobMcCullochSTL

Music: “The Clock” by Thom Yorke

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.