UPDATED: Dolan now faces single challenger Aug. 7; Burton drops out

UPDATED%3A+Dolan+now+faces+single+challenger+Aug.+7%3B+Burton+drops+out

By Gloria Lloyd
News Editor
glorialloyd@callnewspapers.com

Editor’s note: The original version of this article appears in the Call’s Aug. 2 print edition in a different form. Burton dropped out after the Call went to press.

Two-term incumbent 5th District County Councilman Pat Dolan, D-Richmond Heights, originally faced two challengers in next week’s election, both of whom agreed it’s time for a changing of the guard. But now one is dropping out.

Balloonist and yoga instructor Michael Burton of Affton told the Call Wednesday that he’s dropping out of the election Tuesday, Aug. 7, and throwing his support to the other newcomer in the race, social worker Lisa Clancy of Maplewood.

It is too late for Burton’s name to be taken off the ballot, but he is trying to spread the word not to vote for him.

“I’m worried about splitting the vote,” Burton told the Call. He sat down with Clancy, who is “giving me her word on a few issues that were important to me,” he said.

In a press release issued by Clancy’s campaign, Burton said, “The reality is Lisa is polling higher than me, and I am deeply concerned about
splitting the vote with her and seeing Mr. Dolan take that seat for another four years. This simply can’t happen.”

The 5th District covers an area from the St. Louis city limits in Affton up Sappington Road to Sunset Hills, Crestwood and Webster Groves to Richmond Heights, Brentwood, University City and other areas in Central St. Louis County.

Burton has focused his campaign around his effort to “Save Tower Tee,” the much-loved Affton golf course that closed July 9 and could become a 150-home subdivision if developer McBride Berra resubmits plans it first proposed last fall.

Clancy, who grew up in Webster Groves, has positioned herself as a more progressive challenger to Dolan and said she would be the first millennial elected to the County Council, bringing a younger perspective and a more progressive, fresh set of ideas like paid family medical leave for county employees.

She also takes issue with Dolan’s longtime alliance with County Executive Steve Stenger. Her brother Jon works for Stenger’s challenger in the Democratic primary, Mark Mantovani, and she is friendly with most of the council members who have formed a 6-1 alliance against Stenger.

“I see a bipartisan coalition, alliance, whatever word you want to use, of council members standing up against cronyism and corruption in St. Louis County,” she said. “I know that that’s what the people of District 5 want too, and I will be a part of that.”

In the past, Dolan was always firmly entrenched in a solid council majority. But lately he’s often been Stenger’s sole ally, the lone vote against the council’s proposed Charter amendments or calls for a federal investigation into the county’s Northwest Plaza lease.

But he said his votes have nothing to do with who serves as county executive and everything to do with representing the wishes of his district.

“We take care of the concerns of the 5th District,” Dolan said. “My assistant and I, we just take care of what we’re supposed to do.

“Whoever’s the county executive or whoever the other council members are, I just do what I’m supposed to do. That’s not going to change on my end.”

Clancy said she became more interested in county politics post-Ferguson. Before that, she agreed with the idea that education was the key to solving everything. But Michael Brown was on his way to getting an education, and that still didn’t save him, she said.

“I’m not going to necessarily say that I was a Ferguson protester, but that made me think about systems change,” Clancy said.

She grew even more frustrated during the Jason Stockley protests last year in which the St. Louis County Police Department “acted inappropriately” to protests at The Galleria mall. She didn’t hear a word of protest from Dolan, she noted.

“I thought, where is Pat Dolan on this?” Clancy said. “This is his district.”

It’s time for Dolan to retire, she said.

“There’s no passion, conviction,” she said. “I don’t know why he wants to do this anymore. We need someone who’s going to step up and lead.

“Pat has proven through his voting record that that’s not him.”

Burton said the same thought struck him as he listened to a radio interview with Dolan that he found so “wishy washy” that he Googled when the next election was so that he could run against him. It was this year, and that fateful Google search came 10 days before the filing deadline.

“In my head I was like, ‘I can do better than that guy.’ I’m not a career politician, I am beholden to no one,” Burton said. “These guys are all Republicans and Democrats all getting along, and we have this one person and the county executive obstructing all these things that they’re trying to get done for St. Louis County.”

Burton intervened as a taxpayer alongside County Council members in a lawsuit to keep all three of the council’s Charter amendments on the ballot. A judge ruled last week that one of the amendments would be taken off, but the other two would stay.

Clancy has raised tens of thousands of dollars in her race, which could make her competitive with Dolan. Burton did form a campaign committee and raised roughly $1,500.

Echoing one of Mantovani’s campaign talking points against Stenger, Clancy said, “We need someone who’s willing to play a role in regional issues.”

And that can’t be Dolan right now because of his state of isolation, she said.

“He’s in a role on County Council where he can’t get anything done,” she said. “His colleagues on the council don’t trust him because of his relationship with Stenger. It’s time for a change, Pat needs to go. I rest my case.”

Dolan noted that with the help of his current legislative assistant Patrick Mulcahy and his previous one, now-Democratic Elections Director Eric Fey, he responds to every concern his constituents have.

“We respond to every single email, letter, phone call, stopping us on the street, whatever,” Dolan said. “I go to everywhere all over the district – it could be an Eagle Scout event, a school board event or school event. It could be whatever. I’m privileged to be able to be invited, in my opinion.”

As far as progressive politics goes, Dolan said he’s supported “every single” woman who’s run in the 5th District, from his predecessor Barbara Fraser to state representatives.

“I supported all of them, 100 percent, worked on their campaigns – I’ve been there for the Democrats and for the 5th District,” Dolan said. “I’m not the enemy. I’m not the one who’s not getting done what the people want done. I am getting things done.”

Serving in the position is a “privilege to me, it’s not a job,” Dolan said.

“For somebody to run against me, they can tell you why they did it, but I don’t think it’s justified if they say I don’t know my district or I’m not in touch or I don’t care,” Dolan said. “I’m very much in touch with the district. I’ve shown that – not wanting it to happen, making it happen.”

Among the ideas Dolan said he’d brought forward at the request of constituents were an LGBT anti-discrimination bill, Complete Streets legislation that changes the way the county does road projects to place a greater emphasis on bicycle lanes and changes in fees for farmer’s markets that made it easier for vendors to get permits. Previously, they had to go every two weeks for a permit, but he made it annual.

Dolan said he supports progressive ideas like raising the minimum wage, but those things can’t be done at the council level because it would raise the minimum wage in unincorporated areas and leave it at the statewide minimum in cities. Instead, he supports raising the minimum wage at the state level.

And as for ideas like paid family medical leave, “I would have a wish list of all kinds of things, but you have to live within your means,” Dolan said.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to clarify Burton’s formation of a campaign committee.