Eric Greitens, the Republican candidate for Missouri governor, accused Democratic opponent Chris Koster of participating in an era of “epic failure” in the state during a debate here Friday.
Greitens, believed to be behind in the race, used every opportunity to criticize Koster across a wide variety of issues. Greitens repeatedly called Koster a career politician, and claimed the Democrat had taken “$8 million from union bosses.”
He said Koster was lying about the contents of a bill dealing in part with rape, a measure Koster opposed. Greitens said Missouri has a political legacy of “cowardice and corruption.”
For the most part, Koster did not respond in kind. In his opening statement, Koster said he wanted to focus on transportation and other issues, not personal attacks.
As the debate drew to a close, however, Koster suggested Greitens misunderstood the role of the governor, which Koster said included serving as the state’s chief operating officer.
“You shouldn’t be applying for the job,” Koster said to Greitens, if he didn’t understand the governor’s duties.
Greitens responded by calling Koster a “deeply confused career politician” unfamiliar with business. He also said Koster had made bad choices in Ferguson, Mo., during the unrest there.
Koster said he had been endorsed by a police union in part because of his actions in Ferguson.
The two disagreed on several policy concerns. Koster said he would sign a bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, while Greitens said he would oppose such a measure.
Koster said he would veto a so-called right-to-work measure that would end mandatory union membership in Missouri. Greitens said he would sign such a bill.
Koster wants to expand Medicaid in Missouri, Greitens opposes an expansion.
At one point Koster suggested indirectly that Greitens was too inexperienced to run the state’s government. Greitens will need “training wheels,” Koster said in his closing statement.
But Greitens was the clear aggressor during most of the hour-long exchange, sponsored by the Missouri Press Association.
“You don’t get it,” Greitens said at one point. He referred to Koster by name in virtually every answer.
Koster defended spending more than $3 million for repairs to an office in Jefferson City. It included removing asbestos, Koster said.
Friday’s forum was the first exchange between the two candidates since the primary. At least one other debate is expected before Election Day.
Three other candidates took part in the forum — Libertarian Cisse Spragins, Don Fitz of the Green Party and Lester Turilli Jr.