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After new ad mentions stripper controversy, Lager and Kinder scuffle on KMOX

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 3, 2012 - State Sen. Brad Lager went for the throat this week with a television ad taking direct aim at Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s alleged relationship with a former stripper.

The ad arrived shortly before the two engaged in another feisty exchange on KMOX’s Mark Reardon Show, a forum where Lager’s ad was a primary topic of discussion.

Lager, R-Savannah, is trying to deny Kinder a third term; he has been running TV ads attacking Kinder for weeks. Among other things, the ads have attacked the Cape Girardeau Republican for missing tie votes, paying back the state for hotel expenses and not being a reliable opponent to the Affordable Care Act. Kinder's campaign, among other things, has responded by questioning Lager's background, including his role at a health information company, Cerner. that's benefited from some of President Barack Obama's policies.

In his latest ad, Lager mentions for the first time Kinder’s acquaintance with a former stripper and Penthouse Pet. [That story was alluded to in a recent advertisement from a third-party organization. The group was funded with roughly $300,000 from a nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors immediately.]

The ad starts with a short clip of former President Ronald Reagan telling Congress that “private values must be at the heart of public policies.” It consists almost entirely of radio and news reports about Kinder's traveling expenses and his acquaintance with Tammy Chapman, a former stripper. It ends with a message asking viewers to “reject Kinder’s reckless behavior” next Tuesday.

The controversy started last summer whena photo appeared on the Riverfront Times’ website showing Kinder with Chapman at the now-closed Verlin’s

Kinder eventually acknowledged that he had an acquaintance with Chapmangoing back two decades, when she was stripper at an adult establishment near East St. Louis. He strongly deniedChapman's allegations that she regularly performed lap dances for him back in the 1990s, that he aggressively pursued her, and that he invited her to move into his campaign-rented condominium.

When Reardon asked about the ad on Thursday afternoon, Kinder responded, “It’s silly time, and all kinds of charges are being thrown against the wall.”

Kinder reiterated he stayed at hotels at the “lowest government rate” when he traveled around state – a contention he made at a debate earlier this week on Kansas City-based KCUR. He also said that he had been upfront with media outlets about his relationship with Chapman. Kinder spoke to the Beacon about it shortly after the story broke last year.]

“Were there some mistakes in my background close to 20 years ago? Yes, sir, Mark,” Kinder said. “And I came on your air a year ago this month and leveled with the people of Missouri. I have not misled anyone about my background.”

Lager spokesman Ray Bozarth said in an e-mail "the ad speaks for itself."

Kinder noted as he has before that he was endorsed by conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly.

The two candidates spent over $2.5 million through most of July, a sum outpacing even the Republican primary for governor. Most has been spent toward television ads across the state.

Debate treads on familiar ground

The debate – which was truncated because of the bus accident Thursday in southern Illinois – replayed the fights that two candidates had earlier this week.

Kinder pressed Lager, for instance, on why he didn't include his role with Cerner on his official biographical information. Lager once again said that none of his specific business interests are listed on his website.

And Lager asked Kinder why he didn’t disclose he was a landlord on his official biography. Kinder said that arrangement began earlier this year when he started renting out a house he used to live in.

The debate eventually veered toward policy when Reardon asked what the two candidates’ greatest accomplishments were. Lager pointed to his long-standing bid to reconfigure tax credits in the Missouri Senate. Lager has been a long time opponent of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, while Kinder has supported the incentive that has spurred the renovation of historic buildings and neighborhoods.

“The problem is … that Missouri has to live within its means, just like I do in my personal life and just how we do with our businesses,” Lager said. “And the reality is when you have tax credits at double digits when the rest of the economy is slowing or actually declining, what ends up happening is you end up cutting fundamental services. [For example], funding for schools, roads, bridges – things the government was established to do.”  

Kinder said there’s been a “tenfold” increase on low-income seniors getting prescription drug assistance through the MoRX program. He also pointed to his role in getting funds from the State Emergency Management Agency for Bridgeton to recover from last year’s tornado.

“I publicized that with a reporter and said, ‘I want SEMA to respond within 48 hours,’” Kinder said. “And guess what? Before the clock struck noon this morning, the State Emergency Management Agency told the city of Bridgeton that they’re releasing the remaining $500,000 in funds that Bridgeton needed on their $17 million budget. We produced results inside 24 hours.”

With days before the primary election, the appearance on KMOX may be the last time the two exchange with each other directly. 

Besides Kinder and Lager, Wentzville attorney Michael Carter and St. Louis resident Charles W. Kullmann are seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Eight Democrats are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.