GOP nominee Eric Greitens and family celebrate his victory
GOP nominee Eric Greitens and family celebrate his victory | Greitens campaign photo

Missouri rewards 'outsider' message

Political outsiders were the victors in several statewide, Senate and House races in Missouri’s Aug. 2 primary election.

Most prominently, newcomer Eric Greitens claimed victory in the Republican gubernatorial race, fending off three formidable opponents who were cast as career politicians or political insiders. Although Greitens has been in the public eye, he has never before run for elected office.

Patrick Briden, communications director for the Greitens campaign, said Greitens intends to continue riding his outsider message into the Nov. 8 general election against another career politician, Democrat Chris Koster. Koster has been an elected official in various capacities since 1992.

Greitens won by a 10-percent margin over his closest competitor, businessman John Brunner, who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Of the 683,523 votes cast in the Republican primary race, Greitens garnered 236,250 (34.5 percent). Brunner earned 169,425 votes (24.7 percent) while current Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who has been in elected office for the last 24 years, received 141,498 (20.7 percent) and former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway finished last with 136,350 votes (19.9 percent).

Briden said that all three of Greitens’ GOP opponents have pledged to support him against Koster, the state’s current attorney general. However, on Aug. 4, the Missouri Republican Party cancelled a unity event that was intended to include all GOP winning and losing candidates to show unanimous support for the November slate. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that it is because Brunner refused to attend. However, the Missouri GOP said it was postponed to a later date due to scheduling and logistical issues.

The party instead released a statement in which Hanaway and Kinder said they support the slate of statewide nominees, with Hanaway specifically mentioning Greitens. Brunner’s issued this statement:

“The future of our Republic is at a point of crisis. Only those who aspire to leadership, who put character before career, who put integrity before expediency, who put duty to God and country before themselves, is our only hope of saving our country. We must elect men and women who place their trust in God. I support all candidates with those core beliefs.”

Koster also beat out three opponents, but he easily garnered 78.7 percent of the votes (255,466). His closest competitor received just 31,364 votes of the 324,360 votes cast in the Democrat race. Libertarian Cisse Spragins, who ran unopposed, ended up with 3,503 votes.

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander’s office reported that voter turnout for the primary election was 24.8 percent, with more than one million registered voters casting their votes. Kander’s office had predicted 31 percent turnout. 

The unofficial turnout results do not include provisional and overseas absentee ballots, which are tallied when the election is certified, approximately four weeks after Election Day.

The winner of the general election on Nov. 8, will replace Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a two-term Democrat who will be term-limited out. Republicans currently control both chambers of the Missouri Legislature.

One of the most interesting dynamics of the race is that both candidates have switched parties. Greitens is a former Democrat, while Koster is a former Republican who switched parties when he was in the Missouri Senate, just before running for attorney general.

In acknowledging his family’s Democrat roots, Greitens said he became a conservative after witnessing “failed liberal policies” at all levels of government. Koster said when he was in the Missouri Senate, he felt “an increasing distance from the influence of right wing extremism within the Republican Party. Attacks on medical research and middle-class wages, coupled with a lack of support for high-quality public schools were out of step” with his philosophy.

The GOP campaign was the most expensive in Missouri history, with all four candidates spending a combined total of approximately $22 million.

Koster currently has the financial advantage going into the General Election. As of the required eight days before the primary reporting period, Greitens had received more than $8.7 million in total contributions, with approximately $628,000 remaining in his campaign coffers. Koster, who spent less than $5 million for his relatively easy primary, has more than $10 million remaining in his coffers.