Sarah Steelman gained some reinforcements to respond to attacks by one of her opponents in the Republican race for the U.S. Senate that claim she voted for “billions” in debt in Missouri and "backed millions in wasteful pork projects” when she was in the state legislature.
“As Republican elected officials we were disappointed and surprised by the false and absurd claims made by Mr. Brunner in his new smear ad,” her defenders wrote.
The authors were former state Sens. Chuck Gross, John T. Russell and Morris Westfall, and a current senator, Rob Schaaf. Gross and Russell are former chairmen of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Westfall is a former member and Schaaf currently serves on the panel.
“The reality is that, like each of the signatories, below, Mrs. Steelman has never voted for an out of balance budget or a tax increase,” they wrote. “Because of our common sense ‘kitchen table’ approach to the state budget, Missouri is one of only a handful of states with an ‘AAA’ rating from Standard and Poor’s and other credit rating agencies.”
They called on Brunner to retract and correct the claims.
But the Brunner campaign doubled down and said her campaign "misrepresented" the ad and didn't understand the facts.
The Brunner ad says that Steelman, as a state senator in 2000, who later became the state treasurer, voted for highway and transportation bonds, as well as revenue bonds and "pork projects." It cites her votes on specific legislation while she was in Senate, as well as media accounts.
The backup for the ad states that she supported budget bills between 1999 and 2003 that contained projects for her district, as well as an Amtrak station, money for grazing research, employee relocation and a commuter rail study, among other items.
Steelman's defenders disputed the ad's claims
"The annual budget bills which Mr. Brunner refers to include vital and essential services containing all of the State’s K-12 and Higher Education funding, as well as funding for our law enforcement, hospitals, roads and highways,” the letter states. “Failing to pass the state’s annual budgets, which again were balanced, would have been a violation of our constitutional duty and would have led to completely unnecessary risk of our state’s ‘perfect’ credit rating.”
Brunner Campaign Manager Jon Seaton responded in a press call Thursday:
"The letter repeatedly references...the requirement that Missouri balance its budget each year. The Brunner campaign never suggests that Sarah Steelman or her colleagues did not balance the budget. The ad, and all relevant citations, simply shows that as a senator, Treasurer Steelman voted to put the state into debt. In 2003, she did so by supporting HB 401 and HB14, which used revenue bonds to fill a shortfall in the state budget."
Steelman Spokesman Patrick Tuohey noted that Brunner's former company, Vi-Jon, a St. Louis personal care products manufacturer, operated under debt in the past. He said Brunner has "demonstrated his lack of understand of how governments works, which is concerning for a candidate who is running to represent Missourians on complex issues."
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Todd Akin, also a candidate in the GOP Senate primary, was singled out, as well, in the Brunner ad for voting for earmarks. Akin said Brunner was taking a risk by going negative because voters got a "snoot full" of attacks during the recent Republican presidential primary.