by Ivan Foley
An embattled Republican Missouri governor received a primarily warm reception from a friendly audience at a Platte County Republican event Saturday in Parkville.
Gov. Eric Greitens, in what is believed to have been his first public appearance since a Missouri House committee a few days earlier had released a politically explosive report containing allegations of violence and sexual misconduct against the governor, was greeted with a standing ovation by roughly 80-90 percent of the room when he was introduced.
While the vast majority in the room stood and applauded, some did not, including the table occupied by Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, who is running for re-election and faces a primary challenge from State Rep. Nick Marshall.
Many elected officials from both political parties, including many of his fellow prominent Republicans, have called on Greitens to resign amid the allegations, investigations and distractions. Talk of impeachment has been prevalent. Greitens has ignored the calls for his resignation.
While the greeting from much of the crowd was receptive, it was noted that local political candidates avoided being in the same camera shot with Greitens during his time at Saturday’s fundraising event, called the Spring to Victory. It was held inside a former restaurant location at 160 English Landing Drive in downtown Parkville.
The downtown parking areas and the lot inside English Landing complex were full. Republican officials told The Landmark that around 180 tickets had been sold for the event. A Kansas City television station was camped outside the front door awaiting the arrival of Greitens, though the governor with the help of event organizers avoided them by coming in a back entrance. Local Republican officials said only “invited press” was allowed inside the event.
When The Landmark arrived Greitens was in the upstairs portion of the building and soon came down the stairs and stood for a short time in the back of the room. He eventually took a seat at a table of supporters toward the front of the room and took the podium shortly thereafter. He returned to the table for the remainder of the event and greeted many attendees with handshakes after the event concluded, though no local candidates were noticed near the governor during that time.
Greitens faces a charge of invasion of privacy in his much-publicizied criminal case brought by a St. Louis-area prosecutor and faces an investigation into actions surrounding his charity donor list. He did not specifically address either topic in his comments to the Platte County crowd, though did, it seemed, reference those issues in general terms.
The governor was introduced by Shane Bartee of Weston, who said the governor “has angered the status quo in getting things done. When our government doesn’t function our governor demands action.”
Bartee noted that the governor is a “champion martial artist in boxing so our governor can beat up your governor. He’s a fighter who will continue to fight for you and me.”
Greitens then took to the podium with the sound from the previously noted standing ovation echoing through the room.
After saying it was “great to be back in Platte County” and asking “everybody doing well today?” Greitens opened his roughly 10-15 minutes of remarks by sharing a story about his young son’s second soccer practice, which drew polite laughter from the crowd.
He talked business and employment issues. He said the unemployment rate in the state is the lowest it has been in 17 years.
“We are turning the economy around here in Missouri with common sense conservative reforms.”
He said his administration is working to greatly reduce regulations that hamper business and industry, saying people had asked that the government “get off our back.”
“We are getting more jobs and higher pay to the people of Missouri,” he remarked.
In what may have been a reference to some of his current troubles--the governor has referred to the criminal charge and some other allegations against him as “a witch hunt”--Greitens said:
“When you drive strong conservative reforms it does not make everybody happy. When you fight for principles you will be attacked and we have been viciously attacked by the liberal media and their allies.”
Greitens said one of the reasons he decided to run for office was the state’s lack of support for law enforcement during the Ferguson riots. He said under his leadership in similar situations law enforcement officers have been supported by the governor to “protect everyone’s constitutional rights. Everyone has the right to freedom of speech but we have made it clear that throwing a brick through a window is not freedom of speech. We’ve made it clear that if you assault a law enforcement officer you are going to be arrested.”
He added: “I’m proud of the fact law enforcement officers across the state know that the governor has their back and that all of us have their back.”
Greitens said his administration will “fight for the forgotten. There are 13,000 children in Missouri’s foster care system. Those are our kids, both in law and in spirit. We are getting things right for those kids.”
He said foster care kids can now get free copies of their birth certificates, instead of being charged when they need a birth certificate in order to get a driver’s license or a job. He said his administration is “supporting families who want to adopt kids in the foster system. We are getting it right for these kids.”
After his remarks, the governor was presented a gift by Jim Rooney, chairman of the Platte County Republican Central Committee. Rooney referenced Greitens’ boxing background in presenting the governor with a pair of boxing gloves, telling Greitens: “Thank you for fighting for Missouri.”
Greitens’ list of troubles grew on Tuesday, when Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, also a Republican, said he believes he has evidence that may indicate felonious criminal activity by the governor for actions concerning his charity known as The Mission Continues.
Later Tuesday, members of the House leadership called for the governor to resign.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and House Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo issued the following statement calling for Greitens to resign from office:
“At the outset of this process, we said the governor needed to be forthright and accountable for his actions. After thoughtful consideration of the findings in the House committee’s report and today’s news that the Attorney General has evidence to support another felony charge, we believe the governor needs to take responsibility for his actions. Leaders at all levels of government are entrusted with an incredible responsibility to the Missourians we represent. When leaders lose the ability to effectively lead our state, the right thing to do is step aside. In our view, the time has come for the governor to resign.”
Greitens, in a statement emailed to The Landmark Tuesday evening, reacted this way:
“I will not be resigning the governor's office. In three weeks, this matter will go to a court of law—where it belongs and where the facts will prove my innocence. Until then, I will do what the people of Missouri sent me here to do: to serve them and work hard on their behalf."
Earlier in Saturday’s GOP event in Platte County, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft had spoken to the crowd.
Also getting time at the microphone were candidates in state senate and state representative races, as well as county candidates who face contested races.