Missouri Republican Gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens made a stop in Sedalia, at noon Saturday and laid out his policies and took questions from the audience.
Greitens, 42, a Navy SEAL who is running against Chris Koster, the current Missouri Attorney General, spoke at the Pettis County Republican Headquarters on West Broadway Boulevard at a town hall meeting of approximately 100 people.
He addressed issues such as Obama Care, creating more jobs and higher pay, safer streets, immigration, the “Ferguson effect” and the controversy over the nonprofit program The Mission Continues. The program began by Greitens, and two others in 2007, helps post 9/11 military veterans find a purpose by serving their in communities,
Before Greitens spoke his friend, and fellow Navy SEAL, Kaj Larsen, a journalist from the state of California, talked to the audience about The Mission Continues. He noted that Koster published ads stating Greiten took $700,000 from the non-profit program to fund his political campaign.
Larsen said both he, Greitens and another SEAL started the program with their combat pay.
“We ran lean-and-mean for two years, and Eric didn’t take a salary,” Larsen said. “After two years, we got a grant from another nonprofit called Draper Richards (Kaplan) Foundation that paid Eric’s salary for three years.”
A report by the Associated Press states “Records show Greitens worked without pay in 2007 and 2008 as The Mission Continues got underway. After receiving a grant from the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Greitens was paid a total of $150,000 from mid-2009 through 2010. As contributions continued to flow into The Mission Continues, Greitens’ salary was raised to $175,000 in 2011 and he received a $25,000 bonus that year. His salary remained at that level the next two years, before he stepped down as CEO in 2014.”
After Larsen spoke, Greitens gave background about his time served as a Navy SEAL and his family before addressing his policies and issues facing Missouri.
“Today I’m on a new mission,” Greitens said. “Today I’m running for governor for a very simple reason, and that is that Missouri is a great and beautiful state. It is also full of promise and potential. But for far too long we have been held back by corrupt career Clinton-style politicians … Our mission is really clear, it’s more jobs and higher pay, safer streets and better schools for all Missouri.”
He stated that every Missourian should have a “fair chance at the American dream.”
“That’s what’s before us in this election,” he added.
Greitens addressed issues and concerns about policy and Obama Care.
“Chris (Koster) and I could not be more different about policy,” he noted. “Chris has been very clear, he said he supports Obama Care. This is a broken program, full of broken promises.”
Greitens cited issues with how premiums are going up making the health care plan unaffordable for the majority of people. He noted that Koster plans to expand Obama Care by “billions in the state of Missouri.”
“Folks, I’m a Navy SEAL, conservative outsider, who has never been involved with politics before, and a small business owner,” he said. “I’m here to tell all of you, I am opposed to Obamacare.”
Greitens told the crowd he also supports Constitutional Amendment 6 or voter photo ID, which is on the Nov. 8 ballot. He noted that Koster supported Amendment 6 until he received a contribution from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Koster then withdrew his support of the amendment.
“When I talk to farmers and ranchers, small business owners, and parents who have their kids in home school, people who are on local school boards, they all tell me ‘we’re tired of overreach from the federal government,’” he said. “We need to have leaders willing to stand up and protect the people of the state of Missouri.”
Noting other policy issue differences, Greitens stated that he was “pro-life.”
Greitens, a Rhodes scholar, only recently addressed his stand on abortion to the Missouri Right to Life. An issue that caused the MRL to not endorse him as governor, although they did update his “rating” from “mixed” to “pro-life” in a statement issued Oct. 28.
“All of you should know I am pro-life,” he said. “I believe that life begins at conception and that we should defend the lives of the unborn.”
Greitens also stated that Koster “failed us” at Ferguson.
“Our law enforcement officers show up to do a difficult and dangerous job every night,” he said. “They deserve to have a leader who respects what it means to have to put on body armor and wear a sidearm.”
He added that three Missouri cities are now on the FBI’s list of 11 most violent cities in America due to the “Ferguson effect.”
“St. Louis is No. 1 … Kansas City No. 10, Springfield, Missouri No. 11,” he said. “The FBI and criminologists point to something called the Ferguson effect, which said it’s much harder to recruit police officers, and our law enforcement officers out on the street don’t feel like they can actively go out and police.
“For us to turn this around, we need to have leaders who respect the fact that our law enforcement officers leave their homes every night and they step into the night and do dangerous work for us.”
He added that he would “lead as governor” and said he and each Missourian needed to “have the back” of all law enforcement officers.
As for immigration issues Greitens said Missouri would have no “sanctuary cities.”
He answered questions about a plan for Missouri highways saying is was a “critical issue” and cited 3,500 bridges considered structurally deficient. He stated that since Missouri is an agricultural based state it was imperative the highway systems be in good repair for food transportation.
He addressed issues raised about trust, transparency and accountability. He noted that if elected he would insist on a “system of results and accountability.”
“So, that we are actually measuring what the government produces,” he said. “That increases trust and confidence so people see if we invest this money, it’s actually going to lead to roads and bridges that going to support our family.”
To create more transparency on how Missouri spends money, if elected, he would create a site called Missouricheckbook.gov, where anyone could see where state money is being spent at any time.
“So, you can see the checks the state of Missouri is writing,” Greitens said.
In light of the presidential election controversy Greitens was asked if he had anything to say to reassure the Missouri people about the state of government.
“I think one of the things I hope you saw here today, is people around the state of Missouri are excited about our campaign, because it’s so hopeful,” he noted. “We have a very clear mission for the people of Missouri, it’s more jobs and higher pay, safer streets and better schools.
“I’ve been doing this work as a Navy SEAL and as a founder and CEO of The Mission Continues, doing humanitarian work with Mother Teresa, working with kids in Bosnia and Rwanda,” he added. “I’ve seen what can happen when you have leaders willing to step up, with humility, compassion, courage, you can change lives and you can save lives. I would say to everyone here, ‘let’s do this together.’”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.