Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder faces the possibility that dumb-assness will keep him from realizing his ambition of being the state’s next governor. Last week, a deep-pocketed Republican donor said he regrets supporting Kinder’s campaign and called on the Cape Girardeau politician to resign his office to avoid hurting the party in 2012. "If I had known this about him, I would not have supported him in the past," David Humphreys, a southwest Missouri businessman who gave $165,000 to Kinder’s campaign in the current election cycle, told Politico.
“This” refers to the revelation that Kinder tends to find himself in establishments where the employees wear skimpy clothing. Details about Kinder’s recreational pursuits began to emerge when a recent photo of the lieutenant governor and a former Penthouse Pet surfaced on the news blog of Riverfront Times, a St. Louis alt-weekly.
Riverfront Times interviewed the former model, Tammy Chapman, who said Kinder was one of her regular customers when she worked as an exotic dancer in the mid-1990s, a few years after her appearance in Penthouse. Chapman said she eventually became creeped out by Kinder’s failure to respect the stripper-customer boundaries.
The pair renewed their acquaintance earlier this year when Kinder showed up at Verlin’s, a St. Louis bar where the female staff members work in their underwear. Chapman, now 39, told Riverfront Times that Kinder invited her to share the St. Louis condominium that his campaign fund rents. She declined, though she did take a picture of herself with Kinder.
Kinder, at first, was silent about the matter. Then he acknowledged that he has been known to frequent businesses where AC/DC’s “She’s Got the Jack” gets regular spins. Kinder said he went 10 times to the strip club, where Chapman worked in the ’90s before he “came to realize that this is not consistent with my upbringing.” As for the reunion at Verlin’s, Kinder said he stopped in to use the bathroom and stayed — hey, why not? — to have a glass of wine.
In subsequent radio interviews, Kinder claimed that he was the victim of a partisan hit job. He suggested that John Ross, a former Democratic congressional candidate, was pulling the levers of the scandal. Kinder called Ross a "contributing writer and editor for the Riverfront Times.” In fact, Ross has never worked at, or written for, the publication. The paper says Ross was not the source of the photograph that got the story rolling.
Kinder has called Chapman’s story “bizarre,” but that hasn’t stopped his fellow Republicans from believing it. Echoing Humphreys, Tim Garrison, a Missouri GOP activist in Springfield, blasted Kinder in an e-mail, stating that his story about stopping at Verlin’s because he needed to pee did “not pass the laugh test."
Garrison wants to see a different Republican challenge Gov. Jay Nixon next year.
"I am sorry, but the price of cavorting with Penthouse Pets in your 40s is that you don’t get to be governor of a Bible Belt state in your 50s," Garrison said in his e-mail, which was obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The Republican Party claims to be the party of personal responsibility. It’s time to put action to those words, and ask Mr. Kinder to step aside."
Kinder, meanwhile, is standing pat in his conviction that he should be Missouri’s next governor. But if enough moneymen in his party lose faith, he may be the one going without pants.