April 16, 2014

St. Louis Businessman Brunner Moving Toward Senate Bid

St. Louis businessman John Brunner is poised to enter the Missouri Senate race, joining a growing field of Republicans vying to take on Sen. Claire McCaskill (D).

Brunner is the chairman of Vi-Jon, a cosmetics and health care products manufacturer based in Missouri.

The only declared candidate in the GOP primary is former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, but six-term Rep. Todd Akin is expected to announce his candidacy next week.

GOP strategist John Hancock, who is serving as an adviser to Brunner, told Roll Call the businessman would emphasize his Washington outsider image.

“He believes that America is at a crisis point right now, economically,” Hancock explained. “He believes that he has a skill set as a businessman and an entrepreneur that is desperately needed in Washington, D.C. And he believes that the voters might just agree with him.”

Brunner hinted to the Associated Press last month that his campaign would focus on his economic capability. He also told the AP that he could be a partial self-funder.

Brunner has met with Missourians across the state, and Hancock said “the level of encouragement and excitement about John Brunner as a candidate for the U.S. Senate is increasing exponentially.”

Vi-Jon makes private label products such as deodorants and nail polish remover, according to the company’s website. Before becoming the third generation of his family to join the company, Brunner, 59, served in the Marines.

Brunner is relatively unknown in political circles, and Democrats are emphasizing there are a lot question marks about him.

“Before Brunner can be taken seriously as a candidate, Missouri voters look forward to learning his positions on all the tough issues,” said Caitlin Legacki, senior spokeswoman for the Missouri Democratic Party. She also argued that the GOP primary “is going to be an expensive and bruising endeavor for anyone who decides to run.”

National Republicans knocked down that narrative and insisted they are bullish on their chances of success in Missouri, whoever their nominee is.

“Despite the Democrats’ best efforts to spin recent developments on the Republican side, the reality is that there are several solid Republicans very interested in this race,” Brian Walsh, the communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told Roll Call. “Claire McCaskill’s liberal record has made her one of the most vulnerable incumbents in either party and we have every confidence that Republicans will win this seat back next year.”

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