POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — Five of the Republican candidates hoping to win the party nomination for governor gathered in Butler County to answer questions and sway voters ahead of a crowded primary.
Former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, state Senator Bob Dixon, former House Representative Randy Asbury and businessman John Brunner all gathered to take questions from the Butler County Republican Party.
Democrat Governor Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster — the only declared Democrat seeking the governor’s mansion — were both the frequent targets of attacks from candidates looking to differentiate themselves on issues from regulation to Right-to-Work legislation and the events in Ferguson.
Questions for the candidates included ethics reform, “day one” priorities and demands that candidates prove they are the best challenger to Koster, who is expected to enter the race with a massive war chest and no primary challenge.
The first question, which asked how candidates would have responded differently than Nixon to the events in Ferguson, drew almost universally the same answer.
“[Nixon] was holed up in Jefferson City while communities burned,” Hanaway said.
“When [Nixon] demanded a vigorous prosecution of Darren Wilson, he was absolutely wrong,” Kinder said. “He needed to be there.”
“I went there,” Dixon said. “I waited a few days and called my colleagues. And we went down there. He wasn’t there.”
Kinder promised “a campaign like no other,” while spending time focusing on winning “traditionally Democratic” votes in the urban core, harkening back to his active presence in Ferguson and North St. Louis County.
Hanaway pivoted frequently to her time as a prosecutor, House Speaker, and mother, telling the audience she understood the struggles of the typical family and knew the in’s and out’s of Jefferson City. On her first day, she promised to freeze regulation in the state pending a top-to-bottom review of “everything on the books.”
Dixon focused on his time as a state senator, promising to work “with anybody” on complex issues and floating proposals for civilian-driven reviews of the state’s tax codes as well as a revolving 5-year process of review for every single state regulation.
Brunner, a former Marine and businessman, promised not to accept gifts while governor, emphasized and energetic and “outsider” approach to executive work and focused heavily on his long track record of leadership as both a CEO and enlisted man.Asbury frequently evoked his “deep faith” in God and promised to defund Planned Parenthood and block “Common Core” on his first day in office, calling on the voters to elect a person of faith.
The only notable absence was Eric Greitens, the former Navy SEAL, author and non-profit founder leapt to the front of the pack among candidates with a massive $700K check from a silicon-valley donor. Greitens has not “formally” declared his candidacy, but his statewide tour of speaking engagements and fundraising efforts make him all but assured to enter the race.
The event concluded by perhaps the party’s brightest star of the future, House Speaker Todd Richardson encouraging the crowd to come together in support of the eventual nominee, “just give our supermajority the opportunity to work alongside a republican governor and watch us change this state”.
The Missouri Times’ live streamed the forum. For future live streams, follow @missouritimes on Twitter.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.