Lt. Governor race heats up after long lull

Nov 5, 2012

While the Governor and US Senate races in Missouri have attracted more attention, the campaign for the Lt. Governor’s office has heated up after a quiet lull that followed the August primaries. 

Democratic challenger and former State Auditor Susan Montee is hoping to unseat Republican Peter Kinder, who’s seeking a third term in office. 

Since the August primaries wrapped up, there’s been little attention paid to the Lt. Governor’s race, in part because the two major contenders failed to agree on a debate.  They’ve instead fired potshots at each other on the airwaves – Kinder’s most recent TV ad labels Montee a “liberal activist."  The ad reads: “Susan Montee claims she’s conservative? No way!  Here she is at the St. Louis Gay Pride Parade.  Montee’s pro-abortion, she backs Obamacare, no wonder the NRA opposes her.”

And one of Montee’s ads takes aim at recent scandals surrounding Kinder:

“Peter Kinder misused tax dollars on his personal lifestyle," the ad says.  "Staying at luxury hotel, he dropped out of the Governor’s race amidst allegations of aggressive behavior towards a stripper.”

Kinder was strapped for cash in September after fending off fellow Republican Brad Lager, whom he barely defeated in the primary.  He’s in better financial shape as of October 30th.  Kinder had just over $115,000  on hand, while Montee had just over $46,500 on hand.  Kinder has spent most of the final week making calls from his Kansas City campaign office.  He was too busy to meet with us in person over the past two weeks, but he agreed to be interviewed by phone from his home in Cape Girardeau.  Kinder disputed Montee’s claim that she’s the true fiscal conservative in the race.

“She supports the entire Obama agenda," said Kinder, "including Obamacare that will break the bank of the federal budget, that is breaking the federal budget where we’re now borrowing under policies she supports.”

Kinder also says he saved the state money by cutting the budget of his own office.

“Two years ago, I returned just a little bit under 10 percent of my office budget back to general revenue," said Kinder.  "In addition to that, I have gone into the budget writing committee in the House for the last two years and said, ‘send me less money this coming budget year than I had last year.' "

Montee, meanwhile, says her fiscally conservative record is based on her years of experience as both a CPA and State Auditor:

“I have always worked with numbers and trying to do things more efficiently and do more with less," says Montee, "which is what we did in the State Auditor’s office.  We were able to get a record number of audits out, despite the fact that we had less people and less budget.”

Beyond that, Montee says it’s important to have at least one woman holding a statewide office.  She delivered that message to a group of women at a recent campaign stop in St. Louis:

“We’ve only had nine women elected to statewide office in the history of Missouri," said Montee, "and so this year, if I’m not successful, it’s going to be the first time in 28 years that we don’t have a woman in the executive branch.”

Montee says, for that reason, it’s necessary to have more women in elected office to combat what she called the “anti-woman” agenda of the GOP.  But Montee is not the only woman in the Lt. Governor’s race.  Former State House member AND former Republican Cynthia Davis is the nominee for the Constitution Party.  She describes herself as, quote, “more Republican than the Republicans,” and says that if elected, she’ll make better use of the office’s built-in soapbox to advocate for the protection of citizens’ rights:

“I’m the only candidate in this race who’s been endorsed by Missouri Right to Life," says Montee, "and that, for one, is a big contrast point between me and the other two choices.”

During her tenure in the Missouri House, Davis called for eliminating federal funding for school lunches during the summer months, and joined in a federal lawsuit challenging President Obama’s US citizenship.  There’s been speculation that Davis could siphon off enough conservative voters from Kinder and thus hand the election to Montee.  She calls such concerns bogus, and that voters should vote their conscience.  Finally, there’s Libertarian nominee Matthew Copple, who did not respond to our requests for an interview for this story.  In Jefferson City I’m Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio.