Missouri Republicans confident they can tie Koster to Clinton's 'liberal agenda' | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Republicans confident they can tie Koster to Clinton's 'liberal agenda'

Feb 28, 2016

When it comes to any issue, from abortion to tax cuts, Missouri’s four major Republican candidates for governor admit there’s little daylight between them.

All support gun rights and pledge to put in place a “right to work” law restricting union rights. All oppose abortion and promise to block any settlement of Syrian refugees in Missouri.

Their only key disagreement — laid out at this weekend’s Lincoln Days festivities -- is which is the strongest Republican to take on the likely Democratic nominee, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

  • Author/former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens said only he can draw the contrast between “a lifetime politician running against a conservative outsider who’s spent his life helping people.”
  • Former House Speaker/U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway contended that only an insider such as herself, with prosecutorial experience, can challenge Koster’s contention that he’s “all prosecutor, no politics’’ and “expose that experience as a lie.”
  • St. Louis businessman John Brunner said he can provide the perfect comparison between “a political flip-flopper and a lifetime constitutional conservative … a trial lawyer/job killer and a business person who’s created jobs.”
  • Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder cited his own three statewide victories — noting that his GOP rivals have none — and said he could best portray Koster “as the Obama-supporting, Clinton-supporting officeholder he is, signing on to the whole left-wing agenda that this state has repeatedly rejected.”
    Peter Kinder talks while, from left, Eric Greitens, Catherine Hanaway and John Brunner listen at the Republican gubernatorial forum at this weekend's Lincoln. Days.
    Credit Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Republicans claim stronger candidates

During Saturday's forum, Missouri GOP chairman John Hancock sought to highlight some personal differences among the four, "to let folks get a flavor of what makes them tick."

But there were few differences on that score as well.  When asked if they preferred dogs or cats, all four went for dogs. And when asked to cite a favorite president — excluding Ronald Reagan — all four named Abe Lincoln.

Attorney Josh Hawley, who is running for state attorney general, debates state Sen. Kurt Schaefer during the Pachyderm Attorney General Forum on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Days.
Credit File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

All four were equally adamant about a more serious topic. All contended that defeating Koster in November would likely have the happy side affect of setting in motion Republican victories for all the other statewide posts at stake.

Missouri GOP chairman John Hancock agreed. “If we can win the governor’s race and I believe we can, then I think you could be looking at a clean sweep for Republicans in November ’16,” he said. “That’s our objective and I’m optimistic we can get there.”

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, who is running for state attorney general, speaks during the Pachyderm Attorney General Forum on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Days.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Hancock contended that another boost to his party’s chances was that, aside from Koster, many of the Democratic candidates seeking the down-ballot statewide offices were “not up to par.”

In contrast, Hancock said the bulk of the statewide Republican candidates had strong qualifications.

Former GOP senators blast Clinton

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft — a former state auditor, state attorney general, governor and U.S. senator — offered a similar assessment.

Ashcroft was at Lincoln Days, in part, to promote his son, Jay Ashcroft, who’s running for secretary of state.

But in an interview, the elder Ashcroft said he had been particularly impressed by all the GOP statewide contenders and their backgrounds.

Ashcroft added that he also was impressed by the respectful behavior he had witnessed during the candidate forums, and as the candidates mingled with party activists throughout the weekend.

“These are real adult behaviors that provide the basis for making voting decisions,’’ Ashcroft said. “We have a real opportunity for substantial awareness for what their governmental agendas could be.”

He contrasted the Missouri GOP forums with what he’d been watching on the presidential level, which Ashcroft complained appeared to lack in decorum as some Republican presidential candidates sought “to entertain,’’ more than inform.

From left, State GOP party chairman John Hancock, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, former Sen. Jim Talent, former Sen. Kit Bond and former Sen. and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft
Credit Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

During Saturday night’s banquet, Ashcroft took the stage with two other former senators — Christopher “Kit” Bond and Jim Talent — and current Sen. Roy Blunt.

All four took aim at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who had just handily won Saturday’s South Carolina primary.

They were particularly critical of the controversy over some emails sent on her personal email account, while she was secretary of state, that have subsequently been determined to contain classified material.

The four also blamed President Barack Obama, and Clinton, for the heightened conflict in the Middle East. Among other things, Talent said that Obama should not have withdrawn U.S. troops from Iraq.