Zimmerman confirms run for St. Louis County executive

Jacob Kirn, Economic Development Editor Oct 29, 2019, 10:26am CDT

St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman announced Tuesday that he will run for county executive next year.

The move was expected, as Zimmerman had been seeking advice on a run in the Democratic primary Aug. 4, 2020, against the incumbent, Sam Page. Page is scheduled to kick off his campaign Nov. 21 at the Machinists District 9 Hall in Bridgeton.

In a video released Tuesday, Zimmerman, 45, called himself a “progressive reformer.” He said he would end “backroom deals,” and that he stood up to “Steve Stenger’s corruption,” referencing the former county executive who’s now serving a prison term.

Zimmerman, an attorney, served in the Missouri House of Representatives from 2007 until he was elected county assessor in 2011. He had previously served as deputy chief counsel to former Gov. Bob Holden and as assistant attorney general under Jay Nixon.

Zimmerman said in an interview that “there’s been a lack of leadership going back well before the current county executive.”

“I think it’s time for a bigger vision,” he said. “We need to stop playing small ball and work together to build something better.”

Addressing lagging growth, Zimmerman said, “We have a responsibility to all work together and to stop fighting over slices of the pie.”

Zimmerman said if anyone thinks the current government structures in the region are perfect, “you are not paying attention.”

“If we’ve learned nothing else from the failure of the Better Together plan, what we should learn is that leadership requires including everyone, making sure the entire community has a voice,” he said. The legislative bodies in the county and city of St. Louis are working to approve members of a Board of Freeholders, which could lead to a change of government structures by a local vote in 2021.

Zimmerman also said it was a “failure” of government that a lawsuit against the St. Louis County Police Department advanced to a trial, where the plaintiff, who said he was passed over for promotions because he’s gay, won more than $19 million.

“On a personal level, I have a record going back to my time in the legislature fighting for equality and against discrimination, back at a time before standing up for LGBTQ rights was as popular or easy as it seems today,” Zimmerman said.

A graduate of Claremont McKenna College and Harvard Law School, Zimmerman was a litigator at Thompson Coburn before he entered Democratic politics.

As of Sept. 30, Zimmerman’s campaign committee had cash on hand of $503,265, far more than Page, who had $37,457. A political action committee supporting Page had $5,100.

A Page campaign spokesman, Richard Callow, said in a statement Tuesday that it’s “early days.”

He continued: “… but if the race turns out to be only Page and Zimmerman, the campaign will be an interesting one. Doctors and lawyers just think about problems differently. And the job of county executive and tax assessor are different. I think voters are going to be paying close attention to the difference between accomplishments and promises.”