By Kevin McDermott
The long-simmering feud between Eric Greitens and John Brunner, two Republicans seeking the party's nomination for Missouri governor, broke open on a stage at Lindenwood University on Wednesday, with Greitens accusing Brunner of being a campaign saboteur and liar, and Brunner counterattacking over the controversial source of Greitens' single largest campaign contribution.
"Take responsibility for what your team did," Greitens demanded angrily near the end of the one-hour debate, which was televised on KMOV-TV (Channel 4).
"(I) refuse to be lectured by a guy who took $1 million from the owner of a teenage sex slave ... Have you no shame?" Brunner countered, as the audience of opposing supporters cheered and booed.
Greitens, Brunner and the other two candidates for the nomination -- former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder -- participated in what was otherwise a familiar debate scene, with all four candidates generally agreeing on low-tax, pro-police and pro-gun rights policy goals.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL and author, is running as a political outsider. Brunner, a former Marine and wealthy retired businessman, argues that his business background will allow him to fix the state's economy.
Greitens alleges that Brunner is behind an anonymous attack video posted last year calling Greitens' military record into question. Brunner has denied involvement in the video, though it was created and publicized with the involvement of former Brunner Chief of Staff Paul Holzer.
Holzer confirmed his connection to the video during a radio interview with KTRS's McGraw Milhaven last week -- though he didn't acknowledge his past role with Brunner until the Post-Dispatch pressed him about it.
Brunner, Kinder and Hanaway, meanwhile, have repeatedly challenged Greitens over his acceptance of $1 million from California venture capitalist Michael Goguen. The investor is the subject of a lawsuit alleging that Goguen "sexually, physically and emotionally" assaulted a woman for 13 years. Greitens has rejected calls to return the money, saying he doesn't want to pre-judge Goguen while the suit is in progress.
Beyond the Brunner-Greitens showdown, the debate unfolded much as multiple previous ones have.
As in the past, Hanaway presented herself as the law-and-order candidate, and said she believes the state should encourage local police departments to use body cameras to help navigate police-community conflicts.
Kinder stressed that he is the only proven statewide vote-getter in the field, and said his history of forming alliances with urban leaders would help him lead during Fergusonlike conflicts.
The four candidates were asked about Kansas' experiment with massive tax cuts to spur the economy, a move that critics say hasn't worked and has caused a budget crisis. All four candidates stood by the concept of tax-cut economics but said they wouldn't emulate Kansas' all-in approach.
The winner of the Aug. 2 primary will face likely Democratic nominee Chris Koster, currently Missouri's attorney general, in the Nov. 8 general election.
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