– Candidates Steve Stenger and Rick Stream faced off Oct. 14 at the Touhill PAC. –
PHOTO: The Blanche M, Touhill Performing Arts Center at University of Missouri-St. Louis was the site for the debate between candidates for St. Louis County Executive on Oct. 14. Photo by Cate Marquis for The Current ©


By Cullen Williams, Staff Writer for The Current

The University of Missouri – St. Louis, in partnership with St. Louis Public Radio, hosted a public debate between St. Louis County Executive candidates Councilman Steve Stenger (D-Afton) and Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood). The debate took place in the E. Desmond Lee Theater of the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on October 14 at 12 p.m. It was moderated by Don Marsh, host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air” and St. Louis Public Radio political reporters Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies served as panelists.

This race has received more attention than usual because of unrest in North County. Councilman Stenger has received considerable support from St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, who is presenting the facts in the Michael Brown case. As for Representative Stream, he has received support from numerous African-American Democrats in North County, as well as Missouri Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City).

The first few questions of the debate highlighted the unrest in Ferguson and North County. In response to the unrest Representative Stream said, “The Ferguson situation is a result of lack of leadership in St. Louis County for many years, it just didn’t happen.” He also mentioned his ability to work across party lines, and with African-American leaders, as a way in bringing peace to the area. As for Stenger, he stated that, “We need to move forward and we need to move forward together.” He then laid out his plan to re-organize county government and focus more on areas of poverty.

The debate got a bit heated when the questions turned to social issues – abortion, education and gun control. Mannies intoduced the fact that both candidates have mentioned issues in their advertisements that do not fall under the duties and responsibilities of County Executive- Representative Stream talking about education and Councilman Stenger mentioning a woman’s right to choose. She then went on to ask what they would do to advance these issues, if they could, and why they are featured in their ads.

In response, Representative Stream stated, “If we don’t have access to high quality education for every student our county is going to suffer. We need to have access to high quality education for every one of our students. That’s what I’ve worked for 35 years.”

Rosenbaum asked Stenger if he would use his power as County Executive to increase access to abortions. Stenger responded that he mentioned abortion in his ad to “point out an extreme record” of his opponent and would not use his power to advocate for the opening of an abortion clinic in the county.

Representative Stream replied he is pro-life and stands by his viewpoint, unlike his opponent. “Mr. Stenger when he ran in South County was pro-life. He’s running county-wide, now he’s pro-choice. I don’t change my message. We don’t need people running our government who are inconsistent like that, who change positions and flip flop like fish on sidewalks. We don’t need that.”
In his rebuttal Stenger said, “At no time did I ever believe that a woman’s right to choose should be infringed upon in case of rape or incest I just don’t think the legislature has any place in doing that nor have I ever. And by the way, it’s not an issue we vote on in St. Louis County government.”

Both candidates ended the debate with 90 second closing statements. “St. Louis County is at a crossroads. There are sharp contrasts being the two of us,” stated Stenger. Representative Stream conveyed the importance of starting fresh in St. Louis County. “This election is a historic one because we are at a definite place where we can move forward with a new person who is not connected to county government, who has 42 years of leadership and management experience working in all levels of government or you can stay with the same person who has been here for six years, and talks about all these things but has done nothing for six years. You have a clear choice here. St. Louis County can move forward in the eyes of the nation and the world or you can stay with the same old person who has been there and done nothing about it.”

© The Current 2014