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GOP seeking new St. Louis County executive nominee after Pinner steps aside — again

Katherine Pinner
Katherine Pinner withdrew from the St. Louis County executive's contest on Friday.

The long, and strange, saga of Katherine Pinner’s St. Louis County executive bid is finally over.

Pinner, who surprisingly won the GOP nomination in early August, successfully filed paperwork Friday with a St. Louis County judge to get her name off the ballot. In a statement on her website, Pinner listed several reasons for exiting the race, including unspecified “personal items.”

“I hope for a candidate who can hit the ground running with critical items currently facing the County,” Pinner wrote.

A spokeswoman for the St. Louis County Board of Elections said it received a court order “to remove Katherine Pinner from the ballot, so we will proceed with doing so.”

The move is a reversal for Pinner, who earlier this week pledged to stay in the race. And that was a change from a previous statement to St. Louis County Republican Party Central Committee Chairwoman Rene Artman that she would bow out of the contest.

GOP committee members will select Pinner’s replacement. Artman said the party has until later in the month to choose a new nominee.

She said Pinner’s departure from the race gives the GOP a chance to hold incumbent Sam Page accountable.

“We want this to end,” Artman said. “And now we have the time to find the person who can stand up to Sam Page and take our county back.”

Page spokesman Richard Callow said in a statement that “it’s too bad Ms. Pinner, who easily won her primary, found only roadblocks and booby traps on the campaign trail.”

“Apparently, Republican leaders are happier picking their candidate out of a hat than abiding by a primary election,” Callow said. “It will be quite a week as horses get traded and backs get stabbed. We’ll leave a blank on the campaign mail and fill it in if they settle on a new candidate who actually stays in the race.”

Sam Page, St. Louis County Executive, gives the first-ever State of the County address
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is seeking a full four-year term in November. He defeated Jane Dueker in the August Democratic primary.

An unorthodox campaign

Pinner shocked many when she beat state Rep. Shamed Dogan for the GOP nomination, despite spending no money and having much less name recognition than the Ballwin Republican. After she won, Pinner’s views on COVID-19 attracted controversy – especially after she filed a lawsuit in which she claimed masks were linked to satanic rituals.

The combination of eyebrow-raising views and nonexistent fundraising gave Pinner a slim chance of beating Page, especially in a county that’s trended Democratic and hasn’t elected a GOP county executive since the early 1990s.

Pinner’s victory prompted some introspection on what went wrong with Dogan’s campaign. He had raised several hundred thousand dollars and was seen as the most viable GOP candidate for the post since Rick Stream in 2014.

Dogan told the Bulwark that it’s possible that neither he nor Pinner were that well known and that since he had an unusual name, voters picked her. Dogan also was one of the more outspoken Republicans against former President Donald Trump, which may have cost him votes.

In any case, Dogan may not be eligible to seek the nomination because of what’s known as Missouri’s sore loser law. That bars candidates from running in a general election if they’re unsuccessful in a primary. Dogan declined to comment about Pinner’s departure.

Artman said it will be a challenge to find a candidate who can run in an expensive contest on short notice.

“We’re going to do our best,” she said, adding that a couple of people had expressed interest in the spot.

Regardless of what happens in the county executive’s race, it may still be possible for foes of Page to constrain his power for the next couple of years.

If Republican Dennis Hancock defeats Democrat Vicki Englund in the 3rd District County Council race, Page would still not have a functioning majority on the council. Some Page antagonists were concerned Pinner’s presence in the race could have helped Englund in a district that is fairly even between the two parties.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum 

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