Can John Brunner’s Consultant Do His Duty?

Republican consultant David Barklage is in a weird place.

Barklage grew up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, along with Peter Kinder. Barklage has been Kinder’s campaign consultant for years—all of Kinder’s races, as far as I know. They were a team. David Barlage was Peter Kinder’s chief of staff when Kinder was president pro tem of the Missouri Senate in 2002.

And a loyal consultant is a great tool for a politician. Consultants know everything about their candidates. They do opposition research on their own candidate before they look into opponents. It’s not a stretch to say David Barklage knows more about Peter Kinder than Peter Kinder does.

The consultants I’ve talked to say they don’t like going negative, especially against other Republicans. But they have no choice. Consultants believe they have a fiduciary duty to their candidates. A duty to do “whatever it takes” to win the race.

Earlier this year, David Barklage signed on as John Brunner’s consultant in Brunner’s run for governor. Kinder was planning to run for re-election as Lieutenant Governor at the time.

Now, Kinder has parted ways with Barklage to run for governor.

Think about Barlage’s position.

If Barklage prosecutes an all-out, fiduciary campaign on behalf of Brunner, he’ll betray a lifetime of loyalty to and from Peter Kinder.

But if Barklage pulls punches against Kinder, he’ll violate his fiduciary duty to his client John Brunner. Should Barklage go soft on his old friend Peter Kinder and Kinder win the Republican nomination, who, besides Kinder, would ever trust Barklage again?

On the surface, David Barklage is in a no-win situation. But Barklage prides himself on his strategic maneuvering.

In the days following Tom Schweich’s suicide, word on the street was that the Blunt-Wagner establishment was pushing Brunner into the race. Not because they thought Brunner could win against Democrat Chris Koster, but because, win or lose, a gubernatorial campaign in 2016 would eliminate Brunner as a Senate candidate in 2018 when Claire McCaskill’s seat opens up. Representative Ann Wagner would like that seat, and she doesn’t want to go up against Brunner.

I have no idea. Just stuff I heard at some Republican events in the spring.

But it makes an interesting story, doesn’t it? Brunner, the libertarian businessman gets suckered into a race he’s not supposed to win. Brunner is a self-funded millionaire. A consultant can make a lot of bank from advertising buys on behalf of a self-funded candidate.

And if that self-funded millionaire candidate should lose the primary? Well, then his consultant is free to hook up with his old buddy, should the old buddy win the nomination.

I honestly have no idea that any of this conspiracy theory is fact. But one reason I detest electoral party politics is that I would not be the least surprised if it were true. In fact, I’d be a little surprised if it weren’t.


An earlier version of this post inelegantly implied something I absolutely did not intend. Reasonable people would have concluded that I was questioning the character of David Barklage or Peter Kinder or both. I am sorry for my crappy writing or poor construction. My apologies to David and Lt. Governor Kinder who do great work advancing noble causes.

Author: William Hennessy

Co-founder of St. Louis Tea Party Coalition and Nationwide Chicago Tea Party Persuasive design expertLatest book: Turning On Trump: An Evolution (2016)Author of The Conservative Manifest (1993), Zen Conservatism (2009), Weaving the Roots (2011), and Fight to Evolve (2016)I believe every person deserves the dignity of meaningful work as the only path to human flourishing.

6 Comments on “Can John Brunner’s Consultant Do His Duty?

  1. First of all, Ann Wagner and Catherine Hanaway are close friends. Why would they want a candidate who can self fund in a race where Catherine was (is) depending on one major donor? She’s not going to undercut her friend like that for a race like senate that she has no interest in. Wagner has a safe seat and can move up in leadership in the coming years. I doubt she’ll want to risk that to take on a two term incumbent who votes moderate and has a moderate image. Unless Claire has a scandal, her seat is safe. 2012 was the best shot to take her out.

  2. Bill you write, “Reasonable people would have concluded that I was questioning the character of David Barklage ” You may not question the character of Barklage, but I will. Barklage cut a deal with Ryan McKenna in my MO state senate race against him in 2010. The Republicans would not help me in my race and the Democrats were not to help John Lamping’s opponent in their race. Republican consultant David Barklage is not a principled man.

  3. Mike Parson’s long-time consultants abandoned him when offered a better deal from Greitens. Just look up who Parson paid in his last competitive race and Greitens is now paying. All these guys are hired guns. Same old song.

    1. Ellis,

      I agree that there are political consultants and marketers who simply shop themselves around. That’s the way of free markets. I am saying that Kinder’s relationship to David Barklage was a little more intense than your typical candidate to a typical consultant. I also realize that consultants go with the candidate who is most likely to succeed. That Barklage didn’t dump Brunner when his old friend jumped into the race is admirable, but only if Barklage conducts for Brunner the same campaign he would have conducted for Kinder. That remains to be seen.

  4. I have no doubt you are correct in your analysis. The establishment candidates (Blunt, Wagner) want Brunner out of the way for Wagner’s 2018 run for U.S. Senate. Also, Brunner running for governor might take votes away from Greitens. The Blunt/Wagner team is 100% behind Catherine Hanaway and will do whatever it takes to assure them a win. Eric Greitens has a tough primary battle ahead but he is by far the best Republican candidate running for governor. The Blunt/Wagner team are scared to death that someone like Greitens might pose a real challenge to their personally hand-picked candidate.

    1. Greitens is from STL along with three other candidates. Hanaway canpaign is probably more concerned with an outstate candidate more than a fellow STL candidate.

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