ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KTVI) - Political newcomer Eric Greitens aimed high in his first bid for elective office and came out on top Tuesday as Missouri’s GOP candidate for Governor, according to Associated Press projections.
Greitens, a retired Navy SEAL and one-time Democrat, topped Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, and businessman John Brunner in a campaign that featured relatively few demonstrable policy differences among those in the field, but still saw an expensive, and at times bitter campaign that has had national attention for more than a year.
The race had been in a statistical dead heat into the final days.
Greitens’ ability to bring in large financial contributions, particularly from outside Missouri, was a source of early campaign strength, which he used on television ads that often invoked his military background. However, his campaign has been criticized for not returning donations from Michael Goguen, a West Coast venture capitalist later accused of sex abuse, and for accepting $1.95 million from a SuperPAC that, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, won’t have to identify individual contributors until October.
Tuesday’s results were a setback for Hanaway, a former US Attorney, who was dogged more than a year ago by connections her campaign consultant had to a radio ad targeting Tom Schweich, the Missouri Auditor and a leading gubernatorial candidate, before he took his own life in February 2015.
The race marks a second consecutive defeat statewide for Brunner, the North St. Louis County businessman who spent more than $6 million to self-fund his campaign after an unsuccessful US Senate bid in 2012. Tuesday also marked the first loss statewide for Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder.
In the final days of the race, Greitens went after Democratic party interests for allegedly funding attack ads targeting his ties to Goguen, in tactics similar to 2012, when Democrats funded ads that may have propelled then-US Rep. Todd Akin to victory over Brunner and others in a crowded primary field for the US Senate seat ultimately retained by Claire McCaskill.
Greitens will face Attorney General Chris Koster, who cruised to victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.