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Councilwoman Wasinger considers GOP bid for St. Louis County executive

St. Louis County Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, a Republican from Town and Country
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, a Republican from Huntleigh, is giving serious thought to challenging County Executive Steve Stenger this year.

She will have to make a decision soon. Candidate filing begins Feb. 27 and lasts only a month.

Wasinger, 52, emphasizes that the county’s top job isn’t why she has definitely decided against running for a fourth council term.

“I just thought it was time give someone else a chance, and a time for me also to consider other ways to serve,’’ said Wasinger, who has held the3rdDistrict council seat for almost 12 years.


The 3rd District includes all or parts of communities ranging from Chesterfield on the northwest to Sunset Hills on the southeast.

At least one GOP hopeful already is in the wings: former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch, who plans to launch his county council bid later this month.

Wasinger said she’s looking at private-sector opportunities, but has gotten lots of encouragement in recent months from area Republicans to take on Stenger. He’s the latest in a string of Democrats to hold the county executive post since 1990.

“People have definitely approached me to step up and run for that office,’’ Wasinger said. So far, she noted, no other major Republican has announced interest in the county executive post.

A lawyer, Wasinger is among the more respected and senior members of the council. She usually exudes a calm and decisive demeanor, and generally has refrained from getting involved in the public disputes between Stenger and some council members, notably chairman Sam Page.

Wasinger says there’s been too much fighting and not enough listening. “It’s difficult to communicate on a combative basis.”

Wasinger has sometimes sided with Stenger, and other times with Page.  If she were to become county executive, Wasinger said: “I’d be more collaborative.”

Several Democrats already have announced plans to challenge Stenger in the August primary. But Stenger has a strong financial edge. He already has amassed more than $2 million for his re-election bid.

However, it could be easy for his rivals in either party to catch up, since candidates for county offices don’t have to comply with the new campaign donation limits that apply to statewide and legislative offices.

A key consideration for Wasinger is that her husband, lawyer David Wasinger, already has announced plans to run for state auditor, also on the November 2018 ballot.

“We’ve got some decisions to make in our family,’’ Wasinger said. She and her husband have two teenage sons.

Fitch cites law-enforcement experience

Fitch served as St. Louis County’s police chief from 2009 to 2014. He said he plans to launch his Republican campaign on Jan. 17 in Sunset Hills. Wasinger said she’s aware of several other Republicans who also may run for her council post.

Credit Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
Former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch plans to run for County Council in 2018.

“I worked in county government for 31 years. In the last nine years, I was in charge of the budget for county police — including five years as chief,” Fitch said. “So I know how the county government process works — and how county government works both good and bad.”

Fitch supported Stenger’s bid to unseat incumbent Charlie Dooley, a fellow Democrat, in 2014. But Fitch said he’s had some disagreements with Stenger since that time, one involving the sales tax increase – known as Prop P — that voters approved last year for law enforcement.

Fitch said the ballot proposal should have been worded differently so the proceeds could only go to help police. Some municipalities have expressed interestin spending their share of the funds elsewhere.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Jason on Twitter:  @jrosenbaum

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