Among the races for Missouri’s statewide offices, the one with the most mudslinging so far is the Republican primary for Lt. Governor. Peter Kinder is seeking re-election, but he’s facing a major challenge from State Senator Brad Lager. Both are touting conservative ideals while attacking each other’s records in office.
St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin takes a closer look at next week’s GOP Lt. Governor’s contest.
Kinder and Lager square off
In one corner is Kinder, a former State Senator from Cape Girardeau who was first elected Lt. Governor in 2004 and then re-elected in 2008. In the other is Lager, a State Senator from rural northwest Missouri who ran for State Treasurer four years ago and narrowly lost to Democrat Clint Zweifel. Lager has been hammering Kinder’s performance as Lt. Governor, particularly in his role as President of the State Senate.
“If you’re going to say that you’re a full-time Lt. Governor, then you actually need to show up and cast the votes to break the ties," Lager said."...the current Lt. Governor has never made a single tie vote…if you’re going to call yourself a conservative, you don’t get to spend $54,000 on 5-star hotels.”
Kinder denies Lager’s allegation. He says he only missed one tie vote due to his duties as the state’s senior citizens advocate, and that on four other occasions his decision to not break tie votes was because he opposed the measures, thus equaling a “no” vote.
“And I think Senators of both parties would say that I’ve been a fair and impartial presiding officer, not attempting to impose my will on the body, which is certainly a no-no,” Kinder said.
As for the $54,000, Kinder has repaid the money to the state, but says the hotel stays were part of his official travels and functions. Controversy over that and over allegations that he frequented strip clubs in the 1990s influenced St. Louis businessman Dave Spence to enter the governor’s race and use his own money to help pay for it.
Kinder admits that Spence’s move led him to seek a third term as Lt. Governor instead of running for the state’s top spot. Lager declared his candidacy for Lt. Governor before Kinder made up his mind, and then later chose to stay in the race. He says a third term for Kinder would be one too many.
“In the last decade, Missouri’s economic growth was 48th out of 50…last year, Missouri’s job growth was 50 out of 50…I believe that if you’re going to change the direction of your state, you’ve got to change the leaders in your state,” Lager said.
The contest has gotten very heated, with both camps firing barbs at each other in both attack ads and public appearances. During a debate this week on Kansas City’s public radio station, KCUR, Kinder blasted Lager for voting to accept stimulus dollars from the Obama Administration, and says Lager’s employer, Cerner Corporation, is profiting off of the president’s Affordable Care Act.
“I did not write the copy that anyone can go and read on Cerner’s website, where they tout their excitement about what the Obama Administration is doing in health care, where they cheer the Obama Administration on,” Kinder said.
Kinder also accused Lager of lobbying for Cerner. Lager calls that an outright lie and says his job at Cerner involves building health information networks with hospitals and doctors. He fires back at Kinder by saying he’s lost touch with the private sector.
“After someone’s been in Jefferson City for decades and decades, whether it’s 20 years, whether it’s 30 years, what happens is when you live from the public trough, you fundamentally lose touch with what the private sector deals with,” Lager said.
The polls, and Carter and Kullmann
So far, it doesn’t appear that Lager’s message is catching on with a majority of Republican voters.
The latest Mason-Dixon poll shows Kinder with a sizable lead of 47 percent to Lager’s 21 percent, with about 25 percent undecided. But they’re not the only two Republicans in the race for Lt. Governor.
Mike Carter is a 40-year-old attorney and former municipal judge in Wentzville. He describes himself as a “Ron Paul Republican” who wants to ban red-light cameras and what he calls unnecessary governmental intrusion into people’s private lives. If elected, Carter says he’ll treat the office as a part-time job:
“The Lt. Governor sits on 10 or 12 part-time commissions that meet once a year, has no real duties otherwise…Senator Eagleton said when he was Lt. Governor, the busiest part of his day was watching the Missouri River flow by his office window…all of those things I can handle,” Carter said.
Finally, there’s 91-year-old Charles Kullmann of St. Louis – according to his Facebook page, he’s a conservative Republican, an attorney, a retired federal worker, and World War Two vet from St. Louis.
- For more on the Democratic primary for Mo. Lt. Gov., see this feature by our own Joseph Leahy.
- For more on this year’s campaigns and elections, go to Beyond November, a coordinated election project of St. Louis Public Radio, Nine Network of Public Media and The St. Louis Beacon.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport