Eric Greitens Enters Missouri Governor’s Race

By John Celock

Saying more “listening” is needed in politics, a former Navy SEAL is now the fifth announced Republican candidate for Missouri governor next year.

Eric Greitens, a Navy SEAL turned author and non-profit leader, entered the governor’s race Monday with a video saying that he would be conducting a three month “listen and lead tour” of the Show Me State. Greitens, who has raised $1.1 million for a gubernatorial run, used the video to position himself as a political outsider in a gubernatorial field that will be dominated by veterans of Missouri politics.

“The problem with politicians today is they are all talk,” Greitens said in the video. “What has that gotten us a failed governor and a bunch of politicians in both parties who will say or do anything to get elected. They don’t listen.”

Greitens, who speaks in the video while driving a pick-up truck, is a veteran of four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He parlayed his time in the Navy to author four books, including on his own military service, and founding The Mission Continues, a non-profit aimed at matching veterans with community based non-profit groups. Greitens, who has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2013, has been hinting at a likely gubernatorial run for several months.

Greitens joins a GOP field dominated by former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who are running along with state Sen. Mike Parson and former state Rep. Randy Asbury. Businessman John Brunner, who lost a 2012 bid for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate is considering entering the GOP field. State Attorney General Chris Koster is the presumptive Democratic nominee in the race. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is barred by term limits from seeking a third term.

Greitens’ announcement comes a day after Kinder announced he would seek the governorship after three terms as lieutenant governor. Kinder is viewed as a frontrunner based on his three terms as the state’s independently elected second in command and bases in Cape Girardeau and St. Louis. Kinder, though, abandoned a 2012 gubernatorial run in the wake of a scandal related to gifts he gave to a stripper and was defeated in a internal Republican Party committee vote for the GOP nomination for Congress in a 2013 special election. Kinder won reelection in 2012 after defeating Republican primary opponents who had heavy financial backing from some of the state’s wealthiest residents and a strong Democratic challenger in former state Auditor Susan Montee.

Hanaway, a former U.S. attorney, has been positioning herself for a gubernatorial run since last year. Backed by millionaire businessman Rex Sinquefield, a prolific political donor, Hanaway is expected to have the financial base to be competitive in a statewide primary. Missouri does not have limits on campaign donations.

State Auditor Tom Schweich had been seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination before his suicide earlier this year.

Koster, a former Republican, is viewed as a strong candidate on the Democratic side in a state that has mainly elected Democrats statewide in recent years but has a Republican-dominated state Legislature.

Greitens was quick to say that he did not think the gubernatorial race would be easy in his video.

“I know that changing politics as usual will be tough,” he said. “If there is one thing that I have learned in four tours of duty is it’s sometimes you have to fight in what you believe in. I for one will never back down from a fight.”

Greitens laid out a fairly conservative platform in his video, saying he wanted to replace Obamacare with a Missouri based plan and saying that he is pro-life and supports the gun rights. He also said he wanted to work on issues impacting working families, but did not elaborate.

The competitive gubernatorial race comes as Missouri is likely to be a competitive battleground for several offices including the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Roy Blunt (R) and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Secretary of State Jason Kander. Missouri will also see battles for the open seat offices of lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer.

Greitens used the video to portray himself as an average Missouri resident, saying that he wanted to visit communities around the state listening to voters.

“I am just a guy who served his country,” Greitens said. “I love my family and I love my state.”