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Mantovani gets rematch with Page – this time as the GOP county executive nominee

Mark Mantovani capture the GOP nomination for St. Louis County executive last night. Committee members chose the retired businessman to replace Katherine Pinner, who withdrew from the contest.
Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio
Mark Mantovani, center, captured the GOP nomination for St. Louis County executive Monday night. Committee members chose the retired businessman to replace Katherine Pinner, who withdrew from the contest.

Mark Mantovani said a number of people have told him he would be St. Louis County executive right now if he had decided to run as a Republican in either 2018 or 2020.

After Monday, Mantovani said he’ll have a chance to “test that theory.”

Mantovani secured the Republican nomination to take on St. Louis County Executive Sam Page in November. He replaces Katherine Pinner, who withdrew from the contest shortly after she surprisingly won the nomination despite spending no money and having little name recognition.

The same cannot be said for Mantovani. He barely lost to St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger in the 2018 Democratic primary and came in second behind Page in 2020 in a Democratic contest that also included St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman. In the past, Mantovani has not only proven to be an able fundraiser, he’s also poured his own money into his political pursuits.

“I think that a lot of people recognize that we need new leadership,” Mantovani said. “I think a lot of people are aware of my prior campaigns. And I think there are a lot of people who've been regretful about the fact that I didn't have success previously in those campaigns and would like to see me do it again.”

One of the chief arguments from Stenger and Page against Mantovani was that he was a closet Republican, pointing to his donations to GOP political figures. When asked why he decided to run on the GOP ticket this time around, Mantovani said he has a commitment to get the region “moving again.”

“I've always had a lot of Republican support as well as Democratic support,” Mantovani said. “I hope that my friends in the Democratic Party know that I'm not abandoning them. I'm the same guy. I have the same views. I have the same opinions that I always have. And I look forward to building this coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats and taking our county back.”

Page campaign spokesman Richard Callow said, “The campaigns will make clear the real differences in temperament between the candidates and in protecting the reproductive health of county residents and in supporting organized labor.”

Dennis Hancock, who is running as Republican for the 3rd County Council Council District seat, stands with Mantovani on Sept. 12, 2022, in Fenton. The 3rd District contest is crucial in determining whether St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has a majority of support on the council.
Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio
Dennis Hancock, left, who is running as a Republican for the 3rd District St. Louis County Council Council seat, stands with Mark Mantovani after Mantovani was chosen Monday to be the GOP candidate for county executive.

A difficult task

Even though he comes into the contest with more campaign experience and fundraising ability than Pinner, Mantovani’s journey to becoming county executive faces hurdles — chief among them that the county has become a Democratic stronghold over the past several decades. The last GOP candidate to win the countywide office was Gene McNary in 1986.

After blasting Page’s administration, St. Louis County Republican Central Committee Chairwoman Rene Artman acknowledged that the county’s Democratic tilt gives Page a “structural advantage that we must overcome to get him.”

“We ask ourselves, ‘How do we position ourselves in such a short period of time?’ 'Which candidate can secure independent, Republican and conservative Democratic voters?' — which is what it will take to oust Sam Page,” Artman said. “Our nominee will have a short eight weeks to mount their campaign to the 650,000 registered voters.”

Republicans have been some of the fiercest critics of Page’s administration, especially his decision to implement COVID-19 restrictions over the past couple of years. When he ran in 2020, Mantovani was critical of how Page managed the pandemic, saying he was “wholly disrespectful of the business community.”

During a brief speech on Monday, Mantovani chastised Page’s record on crime and the economy, adding that “our kids and grandkids are exiting for greener pastures.”

“He’s got the energy level of a South American sloth,” Mantovani said.

Even if Mantovani falls short against Page, St. Louis County Republicans believe he won’t hurt other GOP candidates on the ballot such as 3rd Council District nominee Dennis Hancock.

Hancock needs to defeat Democrat Vicki Englund in November to help Republicans prevent Page from securing a majority of support on the council.

Some Republicans were worried that Pinner would drag Hancock down. Pinner drew widespread controversy by alleging that masking was linked to satanic rituals.And since Pinner wasn’t spending any money, Page had a chance to spend his war chest to help Englund.

While he’s hoping Hancock is successful, Mantovani stressed he’s focused on his own contest.

“We got a lot to do and very little time to do it,” he said.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbam

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