Politically Speaking: Eric Greitens on his latest mission to become Missouri's next governor

Jan 26, 2016

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are pleased to welcome GOP gubernatorial hopeful Eric Greitens to the program for the first time.

The Parkway North alum is one of four Republicans seeking to succeed Gov. Jay Nixon as governor. The other candidates are Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and businessman John Brunner. (All three GOP contenders have been guests on Politically Speaking – click on each name to listen to their shows. We long have had an open invitation for the likely Democratic nominee -- Attorney General Chris Koster.)

Before jumping into electoral politics, Greitens gained national prominence as an author and co-founder of The Mission Continues. That group has raised millions of dollars to help veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make the transition into civilian life. Greitens himself is a highly decorated Navy SEAL who was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.

When Greitens entered the gubernatorial contest last fall, he described himself as a political outsider who would shake up the status quo in Jefferson City. He’s racked up endorsements from conservative luminaries, such as former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, as well as former state Sens. John Lamping, Jim Lembke and Jane Cunningham.

But Greitens has faced some skeptics on the right. Some have questioned his sincerity to conservative cause, especially since he used to be a Democrat and was even courted by members of that party in 2010 to run for Congress.

Still, Greitens has emerged as one of the top fundraisers on either side of the aisle. He’s attracted big donations from across the country – as well as smaller ones from professional wrestling magnates. Greitens may need to raise more money to boost his name recognition, especially to compete with more established candidates such as Kinder.

Here’s what Greitens had to say during the show:

  • Gov. Jay Nixon dropped the ball after Michael Brown’s shooting death in August 2014 when the governor didn’t show up in Ferguson right away. “The great tragedy of Ferguson was that if we had a leader who showed up with any kind of command, presence and courage and calm and clarity – we could have had peace by the second night,” he said.
  • If he had been governor, Greitens would have instituted a curfew. He also would have stayed in Ferguson with local leaders “until the sun comes up.” “And I am willing to listen to anyone who’s hurting who’s on the front lines,” he said.
  • Additionally, Greitens criticized Nixon for drawing a line in the sand in 2008 to veto anything he construed as a “voucher bill.” “My line in the sand is we’re going to do whatever is right for kids – and we’re actually going to look at results,” he said. Greitens appears open to school vouchers.
  • Greitens also was cool to the idea of instituting limits on campaign contributions. All five major candidates for governor – including the likely Democratic nominee Chris Koster – oppose capping political donations.
  • Greitens said “he was born and raised a Democrat,” adding that he learned in third grade that “Harry Truman was the greatest person who ever walked the face of the Earth....I’m a Republican and a conservative not by birth, but by conviction,” he said. “And that conviction has come from my experiences.: the experience of serving as a Navy SEAL; doing four tours in the global War on Terrorism; the experience of running my own business; the experience of seeing what the government bureaucracy did to my friends. All of those things have shaped my conservative philosophy.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Eric Greitens on Twttier: @EricGreitens

Music: “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead