Republicans tap Pousosa for election to fill Stenger’s seat

Democratic officials to meet later today to decide on candidate

Green Park Ward 1 Alderman Tony Pousosa gives a speech before he was nominated as the Republican candidate for 6th District County Council at Weber Road Library Wednesday night.
Photo by Gloria Lloyd

Green Park Ward 1 Alderman Tony Pousosa gives a speech before he was nominated as the Republican candidate for 6th District County Council at Weber Road Library Wednesday night. Photo by Gloria Lloyd

By Gloria Lloyd

It took two tries, but south county Republican officials tapped Green Park Ward 1 Alderman Tony Pousosa Wednesday night to run in the April special election for County Executive Steve Stenger’s former 6th District County Council seat.

Immediately, Pousosa moved to distance himself from how he said Stenger has run things in the 6th District.

“I think moving forward, we need to have someone in that office that has a relationship with the people of south county — which I do,” Pousosa said.

With the Republican candidate set, the Democrats representing the township committees that comprise the 6th District — Gravois, Lemay, Concord, Oakville and Tesson Ferry — will meet at 5 p.m. today — Jan. 22 — at Crusoe’s in Oakville to make their own nomination.

New 7th District County Councilman Mark Harder, R-Ballwin, who replaced new county Director of Revenue Greg Quinn on the council Jan. 1, opened Wednesday’s meeting of Republicans by noting, “The Democrats have already picked a person, his name is (Kevin) O’Leary.”

O’Leary, of Oakville, is a former co-owner with actor John Goodman of O’Leary’s restaurant and bar in Sunset Hills, although he sold his stake in the restaurant last year. Stenger told the Call earlier this week that he is making no endorsement among Democrats who want to run for his former seat, and it is entirely up to the Democratic committee members to make the nomination.

Pousosa ran against Stenger in the 6th District in 2012 and gained name recognition when he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for county executive last year. He appeared to be the most obvious choice for Republicans, who along with their Democratic counterparts nominate a candidate to run in a special election any time there is a vacancy on the council.

However, when the 10 representatives of the five township committees first voted Saturday morning at the Weber Road Branch Library in Affton, they repeatedly and bitterly divided 5-5 into two camps, one for Pousosa and one against Pousosa and for Tesson Ferry Committeeman John Judd. Proxies were allowed in those two votes, and township officials held a running debate during that meeting whether proxies were illegal under state law for special elections.

With time since Saturday to conduct legal research on the issue, Republican officials opened the meeting Wednesday night by noting that proxies would not be allowed.

Since Pousosa had fewer proxies than Judd, the deadlock that plagued last week’s deliberations broke and Pousosa appeared to have the votes to win the nomination 5-4. Judd withdrew his candidacy, and Pousosa was nominated by acclamation, with most of the officials present raising their hands to vote for him.

Before Pousosa was selected, however, the Oakville and Tesson Ferry wings made a motion to reopen nominations, stating they would like to nominate former Rep. Walt Bivins, R-Oakville, who lost the 1996 race for the 6th District seat against former Councilman Jeff Wagener, D-Oakville.

A surgical nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital Center for Advanced Medicine, Pousosa was first elected as an alderman in Green Park in 2007, when he defeated current Mayor Bob Reinagel for a seat in Ward 1, and has been re-elected three times. He also serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission in Green Park, experience he said would prove useful if he is elected councilman since the 6th District seat addresses so many of the rezoning matters that come before the county.

Pousosa is up for re-election in Green Park and had filed for re-election before Tuesday’s cutoff date, opposed by Michael Broughton. Although the deadline for filing has passed, it may still be possible for Pousosa to remove his name from consideration for the Green Park seat, which he pledged to do last weekend if the Republican decision came down in time.