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Politically Speaking: After 2012 loss, John Brunner talks about the road back to electoral politics

John Brunner
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On this week’s edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies interview one of the many Republicans considering a bid for governor in 2016 – John Brunner.

A native of Webster Groves,  Brunner has been deeply involved in his family business, Vi-Jon, and served as president when it was sold in 2009. The St. Louis-based company is known for manufacturing personal care products – including the very popular Germ-X hand sanitizer.

Brunner's family, especially his father (a founder of the Missouri Republican Assembly), had been involved in area Republican politics for decades. But John Brunner personally entered the fray in a big way in 2012 when he ran for the U.S. Senate against then-U.S. Rep. Todd Akin and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

Despite spending millions of dollars of his own money, and leading in many polls, Brunner came in second behind Akin – who soon after self destructed with his comments about "legitimate rape,'' leading to his huge loss in a general election against U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

After sitting out the 2014 election cycle, Brunner recently formed an exploratory committee to run for governor next year, largely as a response to the Feb. 26 suicide of then-state Auditor Tom Schweich, at the time a leading GOP contender.

Brunner is among several major Republicans considering a bid for the post. So far, the only officially announced candidates are former U.S. Attorney (and former Missouri House speaker) Catherine Hanaway of suburban St. Louis, state Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, and former state Rep. Randy Asbury, R-Moberly.

In April alone, Brunner raised nearly $350,000 in large campaign contributions of more than $5,000 apiece. He also received help from political consultant Dave Barklage, a longtime aide to Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who's among those considering a bid for governor.

During the show, Brunner said:

  • He blames his 2012 loss primarily on the shrewdness of McCaskill and then-Senate leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who poured money into Missouri late in the primary campaign to boost Akin's chances, since he was seen as McCaskill's weakest GOP rival.
  • He's not saying whether he plans to self-fund much of any 2016 campaign, as he did in 2012, but Brunner confirmed that he is focusing now on winning support from major Republican donors in the state.
  • He believes that his 2012 experiences, coupled with his business success, will help set him apart from other GOP rivals. That said, Brunner praised several of them, including Kinder and former Navy Seal and author Eric Greitens.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow John Brunner on Twitter: @JohnBrunnerMO

Music: “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” by Deftones

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.