Last GOP Senate Primary Debate: Brunner, Steelman and Akin Spar

Republican candidates talked about the economy, health care and Mitt Romney Friday night at Washington University in St. Louis.

With just over a month until voters determine which Republican will take on U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in November, the trio of top GOP contenders sparred Friday night in a debate seen across the state of Missouri.

The debate, featuring U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Wildwood), Frontenac businessman John Brunner and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, was held at 's Edison Theater and carried by KMOV-TV in St. Louis and KCTV-TV in Kansas City.

Steelman, speaking second in the debate's opening statements after Brunner, was the first to mention McCaskill and President Barack Obama by name, making not-so-subtle jabs at the Senator's foibles in recent years with private aircraft and tax issues.

Questions came from social media outlets like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and were augmented by KMOV anchor Larry Connors and KCTV's Brad Stephens. 

Middle Class

The candidates largely stuck to their campaign themes of limiting the size of government, cutting spending and reducing taxes. When Connors pressed the candidates on how they stacked up compared to "the middle class," Brunner, the wealthy businessman, spoke of driving forklifts at plants and living without a refrigerator. Steelman talked of starting her own businesses, while Rep. Akin spoke of changing his own car oil and his time as an IBM engineer.

Romney Support

Rep. Akin: "I'm going to wait and see what he does," Akin said in speaking of a potential Romney Presidential administration. He pointed to his opposition to Bush era programs like 'No Child Left Behind' and the government bailout of the banking industry.

Brunner: "Mitt Romney is conservative enough for me," he said, and as the Associated Press reported, "just the kind of leader we need right now."

Steelman did not directly address her support for the Republican Presidential nominee.

Charlie Dooley

The Democratic St. Louis County Executive became a topic during the debate, when Steelman criticized Brunner's financial support of Dooley's past campaigns, as well as Akin's. Brunner said he supported Dooley as a friend.

Supporting The Nominee

Each candidate said they would support whoever emerged victorious on Aug. 7. Steelman was pressed on the question given what observers saw as less than a full-throated endorsement after her failed primary bid against former U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof in the 2008 gubernatorial race. Steelman countered Friday by saying she didn't do it in the way "party establishment" leaders wanted.

Patch wants to know: Who won the debate? Tell us in the comments.


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