© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Nieves claims Missouri 'kingmakers' seek to destroy his political career

At a "prayer vigil" held Monday night by his allies, state Rep. Brian Nieves blamed his legal troubles on unnamed "kingmakers and the powerbrokers in the state of Missouri" who he contends want to block his likely ascension to the Missouri Senate.

"They want to hang me up like a scarecrow," asserted Nieves, R-Washington, to at least 150 people attending a riverfront rally in downtown Washington, Mo. The crowd frequently broke into cheers and standing ovations to show their support.

"The Old Guard (within the GOP) feels threatened," Nieves continued, because he "won't be a lap dog. ... There is no way they will ever control Brian Nieves."

Nieves added that he was confident his enemies will fail because "God has his hand all over this situation."

Nieves addressed the crowd for almost half an hour, offering up his most detailed public defense since he was accused of brandishing a gun and threatening to kill a former top aide to one of Nieves' defeated rivals. The encounter is alleged to have occurred the day after Nieves handily won a four-way Republican primary Aug. 3 for the open 26th District state Senate seat. Nieves is favored to win the post in the Nov. 2 election.

Nieves has been accused of violently accosting the aide, Shawn Bell, who says he showed up at Nieves' office to congratulate him. Bell had worked previously for Nieves, but had served as campaign manager for rival Richard Stratman, the former mayor of Washington who had the support of outgoing state Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington. Stratman finished third in the primary.

Bell hasfiled a complaint with police alleging that Nieves head-butted him, displayed a gun, threatened to kill him and made him partially strip. Bell also has gone to court seeking a protection order against Nieves, and has hired prominent lawyers in the state's three largest cities to handle possible civil or criminal suits.

Nieves said at the vigil that Bell's assertions were "preposterous," although he acknowledged, "It wasn't a nice encounter."

Nieves noted that Bell had returned shortly after the initial visit to retrieve sunglasses he'd left behind. Nieves also asserted that it was Bell's lawyer who had asked to delay the hearing on the protection order until Sept. 2; the hearing initially had been set for last Thursday.

"When you are telling the truth, do you need time to prepare and rehearse?" Nieves asked. He also contended that Bell would not have sought a hearing delay if he had truly feared for his life.

Nieves, who was joined at the vigil by his wife and three children, initially told the crowd that he had been advised by his lawyers to say little. But he then launched into detailed comments that meshed his denials with allegations against unnamed political leaders.

Nieves contended that Bell was "a pawn" being used by top state politicians who want to destroy Nieves and keep him out of the state Senate. Nieves asserted that Stratman's allies already have been publicly calling for him to step down as the GOP nominee for the Senate post, but he added, "I won't back down."

The state's powerbrokers, said Nieves, are "using (Bell) like day-old bread that they're going to throw away when they are done."

"They are trying to destroy the lives of me and my family," Nieves continued, because "if they can reverse the will of the people through their disgusting, insidious ways," other Republican legislators -- who he referred to as "sheep" -- will fall in line.

Nieves declined to identify who the state "kingmakers" were, but asserted, "I know who they are, and they probably know I'm about to 'out' them."

The emcee of the event, Cindy McGee -- chairwoman of Show-Me Patriots, a conservative group aligned with the Tea Party movement -- was not so reticent.

"James Harris and Jeff Roe are going down!" shouted McGee, referring to two top Republican consultants who had worked for Stratman. She also announced that a defense fund is being set up to help Nieves pay his legal bills.

In a telephone interview later, Roe said he had been paying little attention to the controversy involving Nieves. Harris could not be reached.

"I have 31 campaigns in 18 states," Roe said. "While (Nieves) is having prayer vigils about Armageddon, I'm watching Monday Night Football."

Roe added that he and Nieves had the same goal for the 26th District state Senate post: to "keep this seat in Republican hands."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

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.