JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The confusion surrounding whether or not the animal rights group the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) endorsed Eric Greitens for governor ended with their senior political advisor and the former Missouri lieutenant governor Joe Maxwell endorsing Greitens, while the HSLF chose to oppose Democratic nominee Chris Koster.
Maxwell, speaking as the former lieutenant governor and animal rights activist – and not on behalf of the HSLF, told the Missouri Times: “After several meetings with both Eric Greitens and Chris Koster, I have decided that I’m voting for Eric Greitens and encouraging my friends and neighbors to do the same.”
One of the key reasons for Maxwell a leading liberal in the state’s endorsement of Greitens was Proposition B, the “puppy mill proposition,” which was passed in 2010 – the same year that Greitens was exploring a run for Congress as a Democrat.
“During my conversations with Eric, I’ve come to know that he respects what we did for those female dogs with Prop B and respects the will of the people,” Maxwell continued. “He cares about rural Missouri and understands the importance of local ordinances as well as health and welfare ordinances. Koster will throw out the will of the people, and that is something that I cannot tolerate.”
However, Koster supported Proposition B, stating in an interview with PoliticMO in 2014 that it brought necessary reform to the puppy mill industry, but he also cautioned that animal rights or welfare organizations could create more damaging legislation to farmers in the future.
“(Proposition B) points out a danger that giving continued license to HSUS to come in and promote these large-scale changes without letting the citizens of the state really fully understand what is in them is dangerous,” Koster said.
The Missouri Farm Bureau echoed the same concerns in 2013.
“During their campaign on behalf of Proposition B, HSUS assured us they were just concerned with dogs and had no interest in livestock production in the state,” Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said at the time. “These assurances must come with a sell-by date because they have most certainly expired. Contract lobbyists are now working the halls of the Capitol urging the defeat of House Bill No. 100, a bill that guarantees Missourians’ rights to continue to raise livestock in a humane manner.'”
Greitens’ backing from an animal rights activist is a rarity for a Republican, but it is not the first time seen this cycle. Former Democratic state Senator Wes Shoemyer, who has criticized Koster on agricultural policy recently and in the past, also attended an office opening for Greitens in August. Jake Davis, a member of the Humane Society of the United States’ Missouri Agriculture Advisory Council, stood with Shoemyer.
The Humane Society has several other stated goals in advancing animal rights which clash with Missouri agricultural groups. Most recently was the Right to Farm constitutional amendment in 2014 which Koster was a leading support of while HSLF, Maxwell, and other animal rights activists were the leading opponents.
Animosity over animal rights issues and Koster’s support from Missouri’s agricultural groups fueled speculation that Maxwell might challenge Koster in the Democratic primary.
Earlier in the day, Maxwell told the Missouri Times that the HSLF had endorsed Greitens along with Jason Kander, Teresa Hensley, and Russ Carnahan. Maxwell stated that a formal release was forthcoming next week.
After the gubernatorial campaign for Eric Greitens disputed the initial report from the Missouri Times stating the HSLF had endorsed Greitens, editorial staff contacted former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell again to verify his endorsement.
HSUS hasn’t endorsed Eric Greitens. The reported rumors are false. We haven’t sought their endorsement. #mogov
— Austin Chambers (@achambersgop) October 22, 2016
Friday evening, Maxwell said that he misspoke and the group was merely opposing Koster mainly due to his alignment with the leading Missouri agriculture groups such as the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, and the Missouri Soybean Association, among others.
“There is a process the board goes through, and leadership of the Humane Society Legislative Fund chose to oppose Koster,” Maxwell said. “A vote was taken to not support Koster. Mr. Greitens’ campaign is not wrong. I misspoke. The reporter reported exactly what I said word for word.
“I apologize for this confusion,” he continued.
“We believe for our family farmers, for animals and for the enforcement of people-approved puppy mill legislation, these candidates provide the best and strongest commitments to furthering those interests,” Maxwell said earlier.
The Koster campaign touted his near-unanimous support from Missouri’s agricultural community.
“Attorney General Koster is proud of the support from Missouri’s agricultural community, including the Missouri Farm Bureau, Cattlemen’s Association, Corn Growers, Soybean Association, and Pork Producers,” said Koster campaign spokesman David Turner. “We will continue to discuss ways to grow the state’s number one industry.”