Speaking at a campaign stop in Lee’s Summit Friday, Missouri Republican gubernatorial hopeful Eric Greitens tried to position himself as more qualified than his Democratic opponent to lead on race relations.
“If you’re happy with Ferguson, you can vote for Chris Koster,” Greitens told the packed room. “If you’re happy with what you’re seeing at the University of Missouri, you can vote for Chris Koster.”
Greitens, who is trailing behind Koster in three recent polls, has walked back comments he made earlier about not seeing his opponent, who is Missouri's attorney general, in Ferguson in the weeks after Michael Brown’s death. As St. Louis Public Radio reported, Koster held several town halls and meetings in August 2014.
But on Friday, Greitens continued to slam Koster’s leadership.
“Koster ... needed to be out on the streets, listening to people, talking with people, working with people, and he didn’t do that work effectively,” Greitens said.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, says he worked with people “from every conceivable ethnic background” while in the military.
Greitens acknowledged that some of those who showed up at Friday's meet-and-greet might have supported one of his three Republican challengers earlier in the campaign.
“In the scrimmage, in the primary, some of you might’ve have had on a different jersey. That’s the point of the scrimmage,” Greitens said. “But now the big game is on Nov. 8, and we’ve brought together the entire Republican Party.”
Greitens has criticized incumbent Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration for not doing more to reform welfare. He says a vote for Koster would be a vote for more of the same.
“Let’s say you’re a single mom. You’re making $12.50 an hour. Your boss comes to you and offers you a $5 an hour raise here in the state of Missouri.”
If she worked 30 hours a week, that raise would net her an extra $7,500 a year.
Yet she wouldn’t take the raise, Greitens says, because she “loses $1,800 in food stamps, $1,300 in housing subsidies, $3,400 in child care subsidies, $1,600 in earned income tax credits and pays an extra $600 dollars in taxes.”
But Greitens’ math doesn’t add up, says fast food worker Terrence Wise, who along with other members of Stand Up KC rallied outside the campaign event, calling for a $15 minimum wage.
For starters, Wise says he doesn’t know anyone with the Workers Organizing Committee of Kansas City making $12.50 an hour. And if employers were voluntarily offering raises of $5 an hour, Wise says he wouldn’t need to protest.
“That’s such a twisted message from Mr. Greitens,” Wise says. “Workers do not want social services. I want to be able to buy my own food and pay for my own childcare.”
Wise claims he tried to deliver a letter to Greitens explaining why he was fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage but says campaign workers locked the door to keep him out of Friday’s event.
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.