Kinder to conduct statewide tour before deciding political future
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 30, 2011 - Beleaguered Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder announced Monday that he plans to soon begin a statewide listening tour to determine whether he should follow through with his expected Republican bid for governor in 2012 against Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.
Kinder has been under fire for weeks over his acquaintance with a former stripper and Penthouse Pet, whom he first met almost two decades ago when he made regular visits to a strip club on the East Side. The two ran into each other recently, at a bar known for its "pantless parties," and their photo appeared in the Riverfront Times. The publication has touched off controversy, accusations and denials -- all of which threaten Kinder's political future.
Kinder has said for months that he planned to launch his gubernatorial bid shortly after Labor Day.
Kinder sent out a massive email missive late Monday to Republicans around the state, among others, in an attempt to recalibrate his potential candidacy. The electronic letter was first reported by the online news site Politico. (The full text is at the bottom of this article.)
Among other things, Kinder wrote that "I will not run if I cannot win."
He observed: "There are 15 months until the election. I have not announced for governor. I have not filed nor have I been nominated to be the Republican candidate; yet some insiders and media pundits are calling for me to bow out of a race I have not even entered."
But then Kinder made clear that he does want to challenge Nixon in 2012.
"I am committed to waging a winning campaign as I have done five times before," Kinder wrote. "But before I make my decision, I will begin a statewide tour and visit every corner of the state and meet with conservatives, grassroots activists and all Missouri voters, while listening to you and your concerns.
"Before I make my final decision, I want the chance to earn your trust so together we make the difference you deserve," Kinder continued. "Together we can chart a course to win in November 2012. Without your support I cannot succeed, and I will not run if I cannot win."
Kinder's lengthy letter does not include any details as to when his tour will begin or where he will travel. A campaign spokesman provided a copy of the letter to the Beacon but no additional details.
The letter also included a link to a news article and video featuring Kinder.
The woman at the center of the controversy is Tracy Chapman, now a bartender. Kinder, who is single, recently ran into her at a bar where she worked and agreed to a photo with the two of them. The bar advertised that it was known for "pantless nights'' for its staff; Kinder says he stopped by to use the men's room.
The picture later appeared in the Riverfront Times, along with Chapman's assertions that she did lap dances for Kinder back in the early 1990s and that he aggressively pursued her.
During their recent run-in at the bar, Chapman says that Kinder invited her to move into a local condominium his campaign has rented.
Kinder denies making any such offer and also denies that Chapman ever performed any lap dances for him.
Even so, some Republicans -- publicly or privately -- are seeking a replacement to take on Nixon, contending that Kinder is too tainted or damaged, particularly because of earlier controversies over his state-paid hotel bills, his Tweets and a campaign-owned car that was stolen and torched.
His critics include his biggest donor, wealthy Joplin, Mo. businessman David Humphreys, who has asked for his money back, and for Kinder to drop his candidacy and resign from office.
Kinder's campaign denies that any additional donors are jumping ship, and no other major Republicans have emerged as possible replacements.
The Missouri Republican Party has come out strongly in defense of Kinder, and has accused Nixon and Democrats of being behind Chapman's recent emergence and the publication of the photo. The governor and his party -- including Kinder's 2008 opponent -- have denied any involvement, while pressing Kinder to respond in greater detail to Chapman's assertions.
Here is Kinder's full electronic letter:
I am communicating directly with you so you don't have to sort through all the spin by the press and bloggers whose agenda have replaced the truth and facts.
While my opponents' operatives have taken advantage of a situation you may have heard of, I accept complete responsibility and apologize to you for my actions of almost 17 years ago as a single man.
With that being said, I strongly oppose the notion that Republicans should allow Democrat dirty tricks or media bias to disqualify or choose the Republican nominee for governor.
Who should be the Republican nominee for governor in 2012?
I believe that question should be answered by Republican voters and activists, not the media, and certainly not the self-described kingmakers, nor the special interests and insiders.
There are 15 months until the election. I have not announced for governor. I have not filed nor have I been nominated to be the Republican candidate; yet, some insiders and media pundits are calling for me to bow out of a race I have not even entered.
In my entire career nothing has been given to me. I have never had an easy race. I first ran for state Senate in 1992. My opponent was a former first lady of our state who had been her party's gubernatorial nominee four years earlier. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, I came from behind to win making me the first Republican ever to represent any Bootheel counties in the Missouri Senate.
I have had to fight and work hard to win every battle. After almost 20 years of service, I am not going to quit now without letting the rank and file of our party be part of the process. Part of that process is letting you and others know the REAL RECORD and the REAL REASON the Democrats supporting Jay Nixon have orchestrated these early personal attacks.
In the Missouri Senate, I sponsored, passed and worked to override the governor's veto of Missouri's first ban on partial-birth abortion.
I sponsored legislation defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
In 2001, I led Republicans to their first Senate majority in over 50 years. Upon my election to Senate President Pro Tem, I immediately bucked senior members of the party by instituting reforms, eliminating corruption, and cutting the budget by almost 20 percent.
As president pro tem, I sponsored and won approval for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a measure that restores the highest constitutional protections for the fundamental right to worship. Under my leadership we passed Missouri's conceal and carry law, which gave law-abiding citizens the right to carry a firearm.
I took on Jay Nixon when he was attorney general, uncovering insider contracts where he paid trial attorneys over $20,000 an hour for work on the state's tobacco settlement which robbed taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars.
I worked to pass legislation establishing a sales-tax holiday in Missouri giving families relief from sales tax for a three-day period to assist them with buying clothes and supplies for school. My innovative tax relief is helping Missouri's economy by increasing retail sales at the same time it helps Missouri families.
For over almost two decades I have fought and successfully sponsored the creation of charter schools that give urban children and parents a choice for the first time, and more importantly, a chance of succeeding.
In 2004, I faced the popular former secretary of state and came from behind. I was the first Republican to be elected lt. governor in nearly 30 years. In 2008, when Republicans across the country lost in the Democrat landslide election, I was the only Republican to win statewide.
As acting governor in 2005, I signed into law the Missouri Military Family Relief Fund. The fund makes grants available to families of persons who are members of the Missouri National Guard or Missouri residents who are members of the reserves and have been called into active duty as a result of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Since being elected your lt. governor, I have returned money to taxpayers every year. Last year alone I returned almost 10 percent of my budget to the state treasury.
Last August, Missourians rejected the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Healthcare Bill by passing Proposition C by over 70 percent. Despite this result, Gov. Nixon refused to act on behalf of Missouri Taxpayers. In-fact Nixon continues to spend your tax dollars to prepare for the implementation of the federal mandates required by Obamacare. I acted by raising private money and have financed a constitutional challenge against the federal mandate requiring individuals to carry health insurance. Twenty-one states and executive and legislative officials in four other states have signed on to support my constitutional challenge which is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.
I have always been a team player. Four years ago, I chose not to run for governor to preserve party unity and commited myself to helping other Republicans. Last year alone, I raised and donated over $300,000 for Republican candidates, raised money for the Republican Party and attended over 50 fundraisers for legislative candidates.
Today we are at a crossroads. Missouri's economy is languishing in ruin and the current governor has done nothing. Missouri had the third worst job loss rate in the country last year and ranks 49 out of 50 states in monthly employment growth since January 2009. No state has suffered a longer drought in employment growth than Missouri. From January 2009 to March 2010, Missouri saw 14 consecutive months of decline in employment. Nearly 83,000 jobs have disappeared since Jay Nixon became governor.
What can a governor do to help create jobs? In Missouri, we have looked to other states with innovative governors to find an answer. Our current governor continues to embarrass our state by showing governors across the country what not to do. A defining example of Jay Nixon's dereliction of duty occurred in 2009. While governors from other states were meeting with Harley Davidson to try and lure jobs to their states, Gov. Nixon cancelled his appointment with the company choosing to spend the day at the State Fair. This inexcusable behavior contributed to a major loss of what could have been nearly 1,300 good paying jobs. Another example is Jay Nixon's refusal to return calls from the official in his administration tasked with helping create Missouri jobs. For this reason, Gov. Nixon's director of economic development resigned in frustration stating she had been"unable to meet" the governor "to discuss and reconcile our different views on how to move the state forward." You deserve better.
I believe in our state, and I believe the people of this state have an untapped greatness. I am committed to waging a winning campaign as I have done five times before.
But before I make my decision, I will begin a statewide tour and visit every corner of the state and meet with conservatives, grassroots activists and all Missouri voters, while listening to you and your concerns. I will share the details of my plans of how we can restore Missouri's greatness by creating new higher paying jobs, cutting waste and fraud of taxpayers' dollars, improving schools, and rebuilding our communities.
Before I make my final decision, I want the chance to earn your trust so together we make the difference you deserve. Together we can chart a course to win in November 2012. Without your support I cannot succeed, and I will not run if I cannot win. The decision should reside in your hands, not a few powerbrokers or the media. If I were not a real threat to their politics as usual and out of control spending, they would not be attacking me so viciously and falsely.
I cannot express enough my appreciation for your friendship and support. I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail soon!
Peter D. Kinder
P.S. I thought you might be interested in this link to a video segment regarding my record of service: https://www.kfvs12.com/story/15344763/viewpoint-peter-kinder.