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Politically Speaking: Lt. Gov. Kinder takes on Koster, Kroenke, Nixon in rollicking rhetoric

Lt. Governor Peter Kinder
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who’s among a crowd of Republicans running for governor next year, joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum for the latest Politically Speaking podcast.

It's Kinder's second appearance on the show.

A native of Cape Girardeau, Kinder has been a major player in state politics for more than two decades, beginning with his 1992 election to a state Senate seat. He briefly considered a bid for state auditor in 1998.

By 2001, Kinder was the Senate president pro tem — the first Republican to oversee a GOP majority in that chamber in close to 50 years.  Three years later, he launched the first of three successful campaigns for lieutenant governor.

Kinder considered running for governor several times, but backed off — most notably in 2008 — amid pressure from party leaders who preferred someone else.

But Kinder contended during the podcast that it was his own decision in 2008 to run for re-election instead, after determining that there was no way any Republican would defeat the Democratic nominee for governor that year, then-Attorney General Jay Nixon.

Kinder said he decided that it was best to "live to fight another day."

Since then, Kinder has been an outspoken critic of Nixon's tenure, and during the podcast blasted the governor over his handling of everything from the unrest in Ferguson to the proposed new football stadium in St. Louis.

Kinder has weathered various controversies, most notably publicity over an old friendship with a stripper and his travel expenses. Still, in 2012 he fended off a vigorous primary challenge from state Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah. In November 2012, Kinder and presidential nominee Mitt Romney were the only Republicans to carry the state.

As he has periodically been in the past, Kinder currently finds himself as the only Republican holding statewide office in the Missouri Capitol – even though the GOP holds veto-proof majorities in the state House and Senate.

He officially kicked off his campaign for governor last summer by highlighting his longstanding amiable relationships with many urban Democrats, notably a number of African-Americans in the General Assembly.

Kinder says he's hoping that, if he wins the GOP nomination for governor, he'll battle the likely Democratic nominee, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, in a contest that focuses on issues, not personalities. Kinder says the public is "sick of these campaigns that consist of taking a bucket of slime and dumping it on your opponent."

As an outspoken conservative, Kinder filed suit several years ago in an effort to derail the Affordable Care Act. He also has promised, if elected governor, to sign legislation making Missouri a right-to-work state.

On the podcast, Kinder’s key observations included:

  • He believes he'll need only $1.5 million to $2 million to win the Republican primary for governor, even though at least one his rivals is likely to raise at least $8 million. Kinder believes his larger name recognition and his 6-0 history in winning elections will counter any shortfall in campaign cash.
  • If he's elected governor, Kinder promises to act quickly to enact a right-to-work law, which would curb union rights in the workplace. Kinder disputes the measure's characterization as anti-union, saying that union membership has grown recently in several right-to-work states. He contends such a law would draw more jobs and people to Missouri.
  • He blames Nixon for much of the arson and destruction that hit Ferguson and other parts of north St. Louis County after the police shooting that killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August 2014.  Kinder, who attended Brown's funeral, said the unrest was largely prompted by "a lie'' about Brown's actions before he was shot.
  • Kinder remains critical of Nixon's handling of the proposed stadium and Rams owner Stan Kroenke's desire to move the team to California. But Kinder reaffirmed his warning to legislative critics that they not carry out their threat to violate the state constitution by blocking payments of any bonds issued at Nixon's behest to help pay for the new stadium. Kinder says Missouri's constitution orders that debts such as bond payments be paid before any other expenditure.
  • In any case, Kinder predicts that it will be the next governor who'll decide how, or if, the state helps pay for any new stadium in the St. Louis area. The battle will continue into 2017, he says.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.