By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. CHARLES Mo. — The front-runners for the Missouri GOP U.S. Senate nomination put their gloves back on Monday night, choosing to focus largely on their own platforms rather than use the attack rhetoric that filled the media the past week.
That is until the cameras stopped rolling at the debate at Lindenwood University, at which point two candidates traded barbs.
Former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, St. Louis businessman John Brunner and six-term U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, of District 2, all expressed their ideas for cutting the federal budget. Steelman pointed to environmental protection, foreign aid and education, and Brunner said he’d consider any program not integral to national security.
Akin emphasized his record of fiscally conservative votes during his 12 years in Washington, D.C.
“Talk and promises are cheap,” Akin said. “I have a proven record as the most conservative congressman in the state of Missouri.”
Each candidate took the standard Republican line of opposing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — the national health-care act — and supported making President George W. Bush’s tax cuts permanent.
“Sometimes a system is so infested with termites, and sometimes it’s a whole heck of a lot better to tear the whole thing down to the ground level,” Brunner said of the health-care plan.
All also agreed that Social Security needs to be overhauled by increasing the age eligibility or giving younger workers a choice of where to put their money.
Those employees should be able “to pursue their own type of investments and make those decisions on their own,” Steelman said.
The campaign of incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill released a statement blasting the idea of partially privatizing Social Security shortly after the debate.
“Missouri families are rightfully anxious about (the candidates’) efforts to leave Missouri’s seniors at the mercy of reckless Wall Street speculators,” wrote McCaskill spokesman Erik Dorey.
In short interview sessions following the debate, the Republicans hashed out more disagreements over a TV advertisement Brunner began airing last week that accuses his opponents of “manufacturing debt” at the state and federal level.
Brunner cited Steelman’s support of bonds to pay for state infrastructure projects.
“We use bonds as a tool to leverage assets to build highways and roads,” Steelman said. “We do so in a very conservative manner.”
She accused Brunner of using “junk bonds” to finance projects while CEO of his family’s cosmetics company in St. Louis, Vi-Jon.
He said she was “misinformed” on the type of financing used, and that spending in the federal government should be held to a higher standard.
“If I made the wrong decision, I was held accountable and I assumed the risk,” Brunner said.
Akin did not comment on the attack ad after the debate, but released a statement on his campaign website shortly after the ad began airing, blasting Brunner for the content.
“This is the typical behavior we all expect from a candidate with no record who hires DC consultants to run his campaign,” Akin wrote.
In that statement, Akin also accused Brunner of avoiding debates.
About 1,200 people attended the debate, sponsored by Missouri News Horizon, an independent, nonprofit news organization that focuses on statehouse news coverage, and radio station KFTK-FM.
The GOP primary will be Aug. 7.