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Missouri GOP candidates for governor launch new ads, gain new outside help and engage in new debate

Clockwise from upper left: Eric Greitens, Catherine Hanaway, Peter Kinder and John Brunner
GOP gubernatorial candidates: Clockwise from upper left: Eric Greitens, Catherine Hanaway, Peter Kinder and John Brunner

(Updated) Three weeks to go before the Aug. 2 primary, Missouri’s GOP candidates are hitting the road — and doubling down on the negatives.

St. Louis businessman John Brunner on Monday kicked off his “Can’t Be Bought’’ bus tour, a creative way of promoting his independence while also acknowledging that he’s self-financing most of his campaign.

But Brunner also isn’t taking his eye off the contest’s prime target, former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens. Brunner has launched a new TV ad campaign that slams Greitens and accuses him, among other things, of being a closet Democrat because he has praised President Barack Obama.

“He’s just another liberal,’’ the ad declares.

Meanwhile, Greitens’ campaign is posting pictures on Twitter of large crowds he’s attracting at stops around the state. Greitens has been on his own bus tour since July 2.

Greitens campaign also is hotly blasting as “completely false’’ a  Youtube video that alleges to feature a woman restaurant manager – teary at times – who claims that Greitens was a rude customer when he and others visited the restaurant in June. The restaurant is alleged to be in Kimberling City.

The video is circulating widely among political activists.

Greitens has denied even being in that community that day. He is backed up by former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who says she was traveling with Greitens that day, as they conducted a series of town halls elsewhere.

“This absolutely didn't happen - it's 110% false,” said Greitens spokesman Austin Chambers. “These malicious accusations are outrageous, despicable, and offensive. This is Missouri politics at its worst….But make no mistake: these outrageous smears are going to backfire.”

Former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway spent Monday traveling with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is promoting Hanaway’s candidacy. It’s the second visit by Haley on Hanaway’s behalf, her campaign said.

And Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder appears to be getting some outside help. A nonprofit group called the “State Government Leadership Foundation” announced Monday that it is undertaking “a multi-issue, five-figure digital ad campaign praising Lt. Governor Peter Kinder’s record as a constitutional conservative and defender of Missouri values.”

The group’s ad campaign is to run through Friday, it said. The foundation also is setting up a related website, KinderRecord.com.

The foundation is a 501C4, meaning that it does not have to identify its donors.

Much of the new activity is in line with the contest’s charged atmosphere, as the four GOP candidates head into the home stretch.

The four are scheduled to appear in yet another debate Wednesday, this one slated to air on KMOV-TV, Channel 4.

Will new debate be replay of last week's showdown?

It’s expected that the candidates may keep up their sniping, which was on display in abundance during their debate last Wednesday hosted by St. Louis Public Radio.

Kinder, Hanaway and Brunner continued to target Greitens, who has been under fire for months over his biggest donor, California businessman Michael Goguen.

The donor is battling a lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed he had kept her as his sex slave for 13 years.

Kinder called Goguen’s $1 million contribution to Greitens (made before the lawsuit) “the dirtiest money ever brought into a Missouri political campaign.”

Greitens had countered by bringing up the controversy that dogged Kinder five years ago, when he admitted that he had been friends with a former stripper.

The personal attacks are prompted, in part, by the fact that the candidates’ political philosophies — and their stands on issues — are almost identical. And that remains true, even after more than a dozen debates or forums.

Coverage of the St. Louis Public Radio Debate

Missouri GOP contenders for governor mince no words during heated debate

By Jo Mannies • Jul 6, 2016 With time slipping away, Missouri’s four Republican candidates are heightening their attacks — in person and in their ads — as they head into the final stretch before the Aug. 2 primary. By even their own accounts, Wednesday’s debate at St. Louis Public Radio’s studio – and broadcast by public radio stations around the state — appeared to be their liveliest. And the nastiest.

On the Trail: Takeaways from a combative and illuminating GOP gubernatorial debate

By Jason Rosenbaum • Jul 7, 2016 If Missourians tuned into their NPR affiliated station Wednesday night expecting an easy-going session from Lake Wobegon, they were in for a big surprise. That’s because the debate between Missouri’s four GOP hopefuls for governor was a, dare I say, lively event. It came as Catherine Hanaway, Eric Greitens, John Brunner and Peter Kinder head into the final stretch of the high-stakes and expensive campaign.

Fact-Checking Missouri GOP Gubernatorial Candidates On Medicaid Expansion

By Dan Margolies & Ellie Moxley • Jul 7, 2016 The four Republican candidates for Missouri governor kicked off their debate Wednesday night with a variety of statements about the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. KCUR fact-checked some of those statements.

Recent articles on the GOP contest

Meet the Missouri GOP gubernatorial candidates: Brunner, Greitens, Hanaway and Kinder

By Jo Mannies • Jul 5, 2016 On July 6, St. Louis Public Radio will host a live debate with the Missouri candidates running to become the GOP candidate-of-choice in the August 2 primary for governor.

Sinquefield and Humphreys family are this year's biggest financial players in Missouri politics

By Jo Mannies • Jun 30, 2016 Since June 10, Republican gubernatorial candidate Catherine Hanaway has received roughly $2.4 million from three groups: Grow Missouri, Great St. Louis and Missourians for Excellence in Government. And all three groups got their money from one man: wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield, who is – by far – the state’s top political donor.

You can't find out who paid for new attack ads on Missouri TV. Laws keep them secret.

By Jo Mannies • Jun 8, 2016 Missouri’s four Republican candidates for governor each claim to be shocked by the emergence of a new political group, LG PAC, that has launched a $1 million TV ad campaign this week. That spending is more than all of the state’s gubernatorial candidates have spent on TV so far -- combined.  LG PAC also is just the latest of a series of groups, with unknown donors, that are spending money to aid or attack Missouri’s statewide candidates.

Greitens breaks from GOP mold with opposition to 'religious shield' amendment

By Jason Rosenbaum • Apr 19, 2016 Let there be no ambiguity anymore: GOP gubernatorial hopeful Eric Greitens opposes a so-called “religious shield” amendment that’s dominated the Missouri General Assembly’s attention. It's a stance that sets him apart from his Republican rivals — and has stoked questions about the former Navy SEAL and author’s conservative credentials.

On the Trail: Missouri gubernatorial candidates talk about a post-Ferguson agenda

By Jason Rosenbaum & Jo Mannies • Mar 28, 2016 A few months ago, Starsky Wilson ended his time on the Ferguson Commission with stirring and strong words for politicians who would have to do the work ahead. “If the win for you is getting elected, we don’t need you,” said Wilson, the president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation. “If you eat steak because you got what you wanted in the community that’s still fighting for a generation, you’re not the one.”

The four Republican candidates on our political podcast

Politically Speaking: Eric Greitens on his latest mission to become Missouri's next governor

Politically Speaking: Hanaway on Ferguson, Mizzou and her way forward in a crowded governor's race

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

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

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.