By Gloria Lloyd
Just after Rep. Bob Burns announced last week that he is running for the St. Louis County Council representing South County in 2020, incumbent 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas said he’s running again.
Trakas, 69, is a Republican from Oakville who had not yet officially announced that he is running for re-election before breaking the news to The Call. Before that, he had only hinted at a run: He appeared at events like the Affton Days parade with supporters, and “Friends of Ernie” sent out emails with a campaign logo saying “We Want Ernie 2020.”
Burns, 71, is a Democrat from Affton who is currently in his fourth term representing the 93rd District in the Missouri House and will be term-limited next year.
Voters will decide in November 2020. Trakas first won election to the seat in 2016 and took office Jan. 1, 2017. Council seats are four-year terms.
Burns is a longtime South County politician who also previously served eight years on the Affton Board of Education. He made news last year due to an outcry over phone calls he made to the show of a racist radio host that were posted on YouTube. He was kicked out of the House Democratic caucus over the calls, but said he would not resign and that he did not make any racist comments.
Trakas has faced a series of challenges while in office, and the latest is that his legislative assistant accused him of sexual harassment in August after he says he tried to fire her. The county hired an outside law firm to investigate, and that inquiry is ongoing.
The 6th District council member represents more than 150,000 constituents, far more than a Missouri House seat. The 2020 race for the 6th District could be key to whether Democrats keep their current 4-3 majority on the council. Burns had more than $19,000 cash on hand in his campaign account at the October reporting deadline, and Trakas had more than $5,000.
Speaking to a joint meeting of the Concord Democrats and Progressive Democrats of Lemay last week at Genesis Banquet Center, Burns noted that he was the first to throw his hat into the ring for the race and said he has bipartisan backing.
“I don’t know if Ernie Trakas, the current councilman, is going to announce or not,” Burns said. “But I was encouraged by people on both sides of the aisle, business owners, and I’m running.”
As for the current councilman, Trakas said that he is “without question” running again.
“I think I’ve been effective as a councilman for the 6th District, so there’s something to be said for — I don’t want to use the word experience, but it’s probably the only appropriate term,” Trakas said. “I’m three years in now and seasoned, four years at that point, and I’ll be even more effective in my opinion.”
Trakas has faced a series of challenges during his three years, with his fight against what he said all along was the corruption of then-County Executive Steve Stenger a central part of his tenure. Trakas faced a recall effort he says was spearheaded by Stenger, and he also survived an attempt to throw him out of office on a “quo warranto” county Charter violation since the Charter banned outside government employment and Trakas worked as an outside attorney for public school districts.
He believes all that was directed by Stenger: “It’s no secret I had a county executive who wanted rid of me. It didn’t work out too well for him.”
But he thinks voters will appreciate all that he did to fight back against that corruption and return him for another four years in Clayton.
“We brought systemic change to county government and it continues, so I would hope they’d be cognizant of that, and I think they will be,” Trakas said of South County voters.
But Burns thinks voters will want him in the office instead.
“We’ve been working, and I’ve got a heck of a team,” including top Democratic campaigner Joyce Aboussie, he told the Concord Democrats. “I really want to win. I’m going to work hard, going door to door and all those things.”
Burns said in his announcement, “I have always believed that the needs of the people should come before politics. I’m running because I feel my experience can help St. Louis County make real progress in solving the issues we share in common.”
Burns, who is a union member and historically has had broad backing from unions, added, “Public safety is the first responsibility of government. I will continue to be an outspoken advocate for the men and women of law enforcement, all first responders, and the people they serve. We need to maintain the emphasis on reducing crime rates and keeping the residents of the 6th District and St. Louis County safe. I will fight to see that all of the Prop P money approved by voters goes to public safety and to ensure we have two officers per patrol car.”
Proposition P is a half-cent countywide sales tax approved by voters in April 2017 for “police and public safety” that raises officer salaries in the St. Louis County Police Department, is building two new police precincts and should increase the number of officers, including two-officer cars.