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Page says he never saw stripper's picture during 2008 contest with Kinder

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 22, 2011 - Dr. Sam Page, a former state legislator who made an unsuccessful Democratic bid for lieutenant governor in 2008, says he'd prefer these days to stay out of politics and focus on his family and his medical practice.

But Page has emerged, even if briefly, to dispute the account of that 2008 victor -- Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican -- who contends that, during the campaign, Democrats displayed photos of a woman now in the news: former stripper and old Kinder acquaintance, Tammy Chapman.

Kinder said that during his 2008 contest with Page, Democrats unfurled her photo at a Tour of Missouri bicycle race and other public events. He asserted that Democrats sought to make an issue of her, but that reporters ignored it.

But Page said in an interview Sunday that he doesn't recall seeing any such photos displayed during that 2008 contest -- and certainly not by his campaign.

"I don't know who this woman is. I'd never seen her, I'd never heard of her," Page said.

Page added that he only knows what he has read or heard lately from news outlets, which have been abuzz ever since a recent photo of Kinder with Chapman showed up in the Riverfront Times just over two weeks ago.

(Kinder maintains that he used to watch Chapman perform almost two decades ago at a strip club on the East Side. He says he didn't run into her again until earlier this year, when he stopped by a bar where she worked as a bartender, and she asked to take a picture of the two of them. He says he doesn't know how the photo became public.)

Page says Kinder's account of 2008 antics is certainly news to him.

"The only criticism I got about that campaign four years ago was that I was too nice,'' Page said.

Page added that he really didn't want to get entwined in Kinder's troubles now, but that he was willing to respond to queries from the Beacon to make clear his lack of knowledge about Chapman.

"I'm retired from politics and I have no interest in getting involved," Page said.

Kinder and the state Republican Party are trying to stem the political damage from the photo -- and the lieutenant governor's comments about his visits almost 20 years ago to a strip club. Kinder has planned to soon formally launch his 2012 bid for governor against Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

The state GOP executive director, Lloyd Smith, has sent a letter to major donors and party leaders defending Kinder and contending that Democrats are behind the emergence of Chapman.

But party sources also confirm various press accounts, initially by the web outlet Politico, that Kinder's top donor over the last decade, David Humphreys -- owner of Joplin-based Tamko Building Supplies -- has called for the lieutenant governor to drop his gubernatorial bid.

Humphreys also wants Kinder to return the $165,000 that the executive has donated to his campaign.

The question now is whether other donors stick with Kinder -- or stand with Humphreys.

Kinder campaign consultant Jared Craighead declined comment about Humphreys. But speaking in general, Craighead insisted, "There's overwhelming strong support for the lieutenant governor's candidacy from donors, Republican officials and the party."

Kinder, said Craighead, offers "bold, innovative ideas'' compared to Nixon's tenure as "a status quo, do-nothing governor."

Craighead added that most donors realize that the flap over Chapman reflects "Democratic dirty tricks."

But Page wants it clear that, as far as 2008 is concerned, he doesn't recall any.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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