Brad Hildebrand's small AM radio station in Washington, Mo., is called "The Mouth."
And the station is definitely making political waves with its morning voice: state Rep. Brian Nieves, R-Washington and a candidate in arguably the region's most competitive Republican primary for the state Senate.
"It's more or less a 'Brian' infomercial," said James Harris, a campaign consultant for one of Nieves' GOP rivals, former Washington mayor Dick Stratman. The two are among four Republicans vying for the 26th District state Senate seat now held by fellow Republican John Griesheimer, who is retiring because of term limits.
Nieves has been hosting a two-hour radio show from 7-9 a.m. for more than a year on The Mouth (officially KWMO 1350AM), even during the legislative session. A co-host, Dave Bailey, and others fill in on the days that Nieves is in Jefferson City.
Hildebrand said he has offered other time slots to the other Senate candidates who have complained. One of them, former state Rep. Jack Jackson, R-Wildwood, hosts a three-hour show on Saturday mornings.
Nieves and Jackson appear to be the only area candidates with regular radio shows.
Harris said that Stratman had declined the 9-11 a.m. daily slot, in part, because "it's not 'drive time,' and likely doesn't have as high a listenership."
Hildebrand said his station doesn't participate in any of the ratings programs, so he doesn't know how many listeners his station or Nieves' show may have.
A spokesman for Jackson said he opted to do the Saturday show because he didn't have time to do a daily show after Nieves goes off the air. Jackson is enjoying the weekly broadcast, said campaign consultant Paul Brown, adding that he often joins Jackson on the air.
Among other things, Jackson "definitely talks about the campaign'' during his show, Brown continued. "We're responding to Nieves, who is using (his) show as a campaign tool.''
Nieves disagrees. "We've been running a legitimate talk radio show for over a year,'' he said in an interview Wednesday night, in which he emphasized that his show first went on the air before he had announced his Senate bid.
However, Nieves does acknowledge that "some aspects of the campaign'' arise during his show. He said the subject is at times brought up by guests or by listeners. "We're listener-driven and caller-directed,'' Nieves said.
Nieves said he and Bailey formed the Patriot Enclave LLC as the entity that actually produces the radio show.
On Tuesday, Nieves featured his wife, Julie, on the broadcast, which can be viewed on the station's website.
The couple particularly attacked what Brian Nieves called the "negative campaigning" they are seeing with just weeks to go before the Aug. 3 primary election.
Of all of his elections, Nieves said on the air, this primary is "the nastiest, dirtiest, ugliest, most mudslinging, vile race I've ever been involved in."
He and his wife singled out accusations that Nieves "is not stable."
Nieves also denied a circular's assertion that "I hired a porn lobbyist," and challenged a campaign criticism of his anti-abortion record. Nieves, Stratman and Jackson all have been endorsed by Missouri Right to Life.
During Tuesday's broadcast, Nieves zeroed in on one of his rivals, whom he did not identify, saying that candidate "has allowed his campaign to be hijacked (by) ... a young, inexperienced campaign operative."
A woman caller also defended Nieves during the show, calling him "a man of integrity and commitment being slandered."
At one point, Nieves refers to himself as "a man in need of a savior ... (who doesn't) need to hide from the public. I put my personal contact information on every mailer. ... I'm not running my campaign based on lies, innuendoes and misleading statements."
Stratman's consultant Harris questions whether the show may violate some federal equal-time laws or state campaign-finance rules (because Nieves doesn't report the free air time as a campaign donation).
Station owner Hildebrand said that Stratman's wife, who works for another radio station, has complained and sought to get Nieves off the air. Hildebrand added that he's not about to drop Nieves' show and that he wasn't bothered by any controversy.
Hildebrand said he's confident that he's not violating any Federal Communications Commission guidelines because "I have offered equal opportunity'' for airtime for each candidate who has inquired or complained.
"I've gotten lots of complaints,'' Hildebrand added. "I find it fascinating that I'm offering candidates free radio time, and most aren't taking me up on it."
Meanwhile, Nieves notes that politics isn't the only topic on his radio show. On Tuesday, for example, one guest assembled an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle.
This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.