Missouri gubernatorial candidate Catherine Hanaway campaigns in Crystal City

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CRYSTAL CITY, MO (KTVI) – The former St. Louis U.S. Attorney and first woman to serve as Missouri House Speaker is seeking the Republican nomination for Missouri Governor.

Catherine Hanaway is running in what is becoming a close gubernatorial primary. The other candidates are current Lt. Governor Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau, St. Louis businessman John Brunner, and St. Louis author and retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens.

Hanaway campaigned Friday at The Main Street Café in Crystal City. She asked patrons what issues concerned them in the state and talked about her experience as both a state legislator and a federal prosecutor.

Safety and gun issues were among the most frequent questions.

"Some ask questions about gun control, but overwhelmingly people want to be sure if the fabric of our society tears apart, that they have the ability to defend themselves," she said.

While talking about Second Amendment issues she told a restaurant patron she earned her NRA marksman first class rating as a seventh grader.

“This isn’t a newly found interest of mine,” she said.

Some of her political commercials show her with a rifle. She grew up in rural Nebraska and Iowa.

She describes herself as a conservative, a mom, and a law and order candidate. Hanaway left politics after serving six years in the Missouri House of Representatives (from a St. Louis County district) and a statewide run for Secretary of State in 2004, which she lost to Democrat Robin Carnahan.

She did not expect to run for office again, but changed her mind several years ago.

“Part of the reason I’m running is I’m tired of all the people just saying, ‘here’s all the things we want to hear’ and then they get there and they don’t do any of them,” she told a voter.

As governor, Hanaway said she would shrink state worker rolls by attrition after figuring out how to trim what she calls “too much bureaucracy in Jefferson City.” Instead, Hanaway said the state needs to focus on frontline care delivery with better paid child abuse case workers and mental health experts.

She wants to cut the state’s income tax rate to be more competitive with other states.

Hanaway has been criticized for accepting more than $2 million in contributions from St. Louis philanthropist and conservative Rex Sinquefield. However, she said she will not be beholden to any donors.

“I would say to that contributor or any other, look: thank you for your confidence in me. Thank you for supporting me,” she said. “I’m sure part of the reason you did that was because you knew I would make good, independent decisions for what is best for Missouri as I did when I was Speaker of the House, as I did when I was a prosecutor, and that’s what I’m just going to keep on being.”