Summers defeats Dillon for Cape council seat

Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Cape Girardeau City Council Ward 3 candidate Trent Summers walks down Georgia Street in Cape Girardeau with his son Clark, 1, Saturday, March 31. Summers was canvassing the neighborhood introducing himself to potential voters. (ADAM VOGLER)

Candidate Trent Summers is now Councilman Trent Summers.

Capturing nearly 64 percent of the vote, Summers easily defeated opponent Ellen Dillon on Tuesday for the open Cape Girardeau City Council seat being vacated by Debra Tracy. Summers won with 205 votes to Dillon's 116, a paltry showing from Ward 3's roughly 5,000 registered voters. Summers, an account executive with Red Letter Communications, won every precinct in the central-city ward except one, which he only lost by one vote.

"I'm grateful to my supporters," Summers said in a telephone interview from Virginia Beach, Va., where he was on a business trip. "I was confident in the campaign I ran and I received a lot of positive support. I was feeling pretty good at the end of the day, and I'm now looking forward to hitting the ground running in doing what I can for the city of Cape Girardeau."

Summers received a lot of high-profile support, including financial contributions from two sitting Republican state senators, Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau and Scott Rupp of Wentzville, Mo. On Tuesday, Summers even drew an eleventh-hour endorsement from Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who maintains a residence in Ward 3.

"Supporting Trent Summers for Cape Girardeau City Council. He will serve us well," Kinder wrote on his Twitter account.

Summers, 33, ran a campaign touting himself as a conservative with more than a decade of government service. Summers worked for several years in Jefferson City as assistant commissioner of administration for the state of Missouri and as director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. He served for a time as legislative director at the Department of Natural Resources. He was employed as a policy adviser under former governor Matt Blunt as a field representative for then-Sen. John Ashcroft.

More recently, Summers chaired the campaign committee that ultimately persuaded city voters to allow Isle of Capri's new $125 million casino to be built here.

Summers hopes the election results are an indicator that his message was well received.

"I've worked on a lot of political campaigns, and I've seen the good parts and the bad," Summers said. "I just tried to be genuine and not distance myself from certain issues based on whether it would cost me votes. I think voters are tired of being messaged to. I just said what I meant. At the end of the day, I think that resonated with people."

Dillon, an instructor at Southeast Missouri State University, said she obviously was disappointed by the results.

"I had a lot of support from a lot of people, both inside and outside the ward," Dillon said. "I appreciate everybody who voted in support of me. I wish Trent all the luck in the world with his job. I know he'll do a fine job."

Summers' four-year term will officially begin after he is sworn in at 4 p.m. Monday at a special city council meeting. Mayor Harry Rediger congratulated both candidates Tuesday night, saying it was good to see competition for a council seat. Two other council members officially won re-election Tuesday, though neither had opposition. Loretta Schneider, who represents Ward 4, got 215 votes and Mark Lanzotti retained his Ward 5 seat with 178 votes.

"I look forward to working with Trent Summers as the winner and trust that Ellen Dillon will stay involved through various aspects of the community through the different committees," Rediger said.

Ward 3 voters had different perspectives about why they cast their ballots Tuesday. Susan Joyce Smith voted for Dillon because of her several years of community involvement. Dillon has been active in the Girardeau Goes Green Advisory Board, Cape Girardeau Public Library issues and others.

"She's just been an outstanding citizen," Smith said. "She loves Cape. She brought up her children here and she and her husband have just been an outstanding member of the community."

But Smith was obviously in the minority. Cape Girardeau County GOP chairman Evan Trump, who lives in Ward 3, voted for Summers because of his experience in government and his conservative ideology. Summers understands the philosophy of less government, Trump said.

"He's a business person," Trump said. "He understands the importance of bringing in and promoting business to the area. That, in turn, brings in revenue dollars for the city. Trent is also a good conservative person who will take conservative principles and apply them to things that get addressed in the city council."

Each candidate had gracious things to say about the other. Summers commended Dillon for being passionate about her community and her willingness to work for the things that are important to her. He also understands that not everyone voted for him and he hopes that he can win them over with effective leadership.

For her part, Dillon said she would not rule out a run in the future.

"Who knows?" Dillon said. "I love being involved in things. I like to make a difference."


Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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