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Page And Zimmerman On Collision Course For 2020 St. Louis County Executive Contest

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, left, and St. Louis Assessor Jake Zimmerman, right, are planning to run in 2020 Democratic county executive primary. Zimmerman made his bid official on Oct. 29, 2019.
File photos I Carolina Hidalgo and Lara Hamdan I St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, left, and St. Louis Assessor Jake Zimmerman are planning to run in the 2020 Democratic county executive primary. Zimmerman made his bid official on Oct. 29.

Two of St. Louis County’s top Democratic officeholders are primed to run against each other in a 2020 special election for county executive.

St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman announced on Tuesday that he will run in next year’s Democratic primary for county executive. The current officeholder, Sam Page, plans to kick off his campaign for the position next month.

Zimmerman, an attorney who has served as assessor since 2011, made his county executive bid official https://youtu.be/crtiONFUnz8">with a web video released on Tuesday. Since he was re-elected to a four-year term last year, Zimmerman can run for county executive in 2020 without vacating the assessor’s office.

The former state representative said in an interview he was compelled to enter the county executive’s contest after the tumultuous downfall of Steve Stenger. 

Stenger resigned earlier this year before pleading guilty to corruption charges, and Page was selected by the county council to serve as county executive through the end of 2020.

“There is an urgent need for reform in St. Louis County,” Zimmerman said. “After what we’ve been through, I think we all know we can do better than this. I’ve spent a career fighting for integrity and honesty in government.”

Zimmerman said he has a “track record of progressive reform and of fighting for the people against the special interests.” 

He specifically pointed to pushing back against a bid to get a lower assessment for a casino in Maryland Heights and working against a retirement facility’s tax-exempt status.

“None of that stuff was easy. And sometimes it offended powerful interests,” Zimmerman said. “But after what we’ve been through in St. Louis County, we deserve a leader who isn’t afraid to offend powerful interests and who is going to fight for the people.”

Democratic skirmish

St. Louis County Council Chairman Sam Page declines to answer questions following a special meeting Thursday night.
Credit File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has served in his current position since late April. The St. Louis County Council selected him to serve after Steve Stenger resigned amid corruption charges.

Zimmerman has more than $503,000 in his campaign account — giving him a solid foundation to run television and radio ads for an election that’s typically been expensive. By comparison, Page has more than $37,000 on hand. Supporters of Page started a political action committee to support his likely county executive bid.

Page is slated to kick off his 2020 campaign on Nov. 21 at the Machinists Hall in Bridgeton. Richard Callow, who is serving as Page’s campaign director, said, “If the race turns out to be only Page and Zimmerman, the campaign will be an interesting one.”

“Doctors and lawyers just think about problems differently,” said Callow, referring to Page’s professional career as an anesthesiologist. “And the jobs of county executive and tax assessor are different. I think primary voters are going to be paying close attention to the difference between accomplishments and promises.”

Page and Zimmerman served in the Missouri House together back in the 2000s.

Zimmerman’s decision to run comes after some county residents were upsetabout increases in their assessments. Asked if that could present a challenge for his county executive aspirations, Zimmerman said he promised to run "a fair and accountable assessor’s office that everybody could be proud of.”

“And today I have a body of work to stand on,” Zimmerman said. “And I’m very proud of my record fighting for taxpayers, championing the cause of keeping senior citizens from being taxed out of their homes. And most importantly, that everyone is treated fairly.”

Zimmerman declined to discuss Page’s performance as county executive, adding, “I’m sure there will be differences in our records. And there will be plenty to talk about in the days ahead.”

“But I’m excited to share my vision for a more progressive, a more honest and more fair St. Louis County government,” he added. “And that’s what I’m excited to talk about today.” 

No Republican has announced a bid for county executive. But since St. Louis County has voted more and more for Democrats over the past few election cycles, the winner of the August Democratic primary will be favored to win next November.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.