GOP businessman Brunner enters Missouri Senate race

Monday, October 3, 2011 | 1:20 p.m. CDT; updated 5:12 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 3, 2011

ST. CHARLES — St. Louis-area businessman John Brunner joined the Republican field challenging Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill on Monday, highlighting his successes — and failures — in running a company as reasons why he should be elevated him from political unknown to the U.S. Senate.

Brunner declared his candidacy in front of two large American flags, which were beside boxes of nail polish remover and petroleum jelly at a distribution facility for his family's long-time business, Vi-Jon Inc. — the symbolism intended to stress his experience in creating products and jobs in a campaign likely to focus on the economy.

"Unfortunately, while we have been manufacturing products, our representatives in Washington have been manufacturing debt, manufacturing waste, manufacturing red tape while spending away our future," Brunner told several dozen supporters gathered for his announcement. "If the label says, 'Made in Washington, D.C.,' it costs too much and does too little," he said.

Brunner, 59, of the St. Louis suburb of Frontenac, is the third Republican seeking to challenge McCaskill in Missouri's 2012 Senate race. Already in the field are former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Congressman Todd Akin.

Like Akin and Steelman, Brunner linked McCaskill to President Barack Obama, particularly criticizing her support for his  health care overhaul law, which he dubbed "Obama-claire."

Brunner has served as chairman of Vi-Jon Inc., which makes private label health care products for stores as well as some of its own brand-name products, such as Germ-X hand sanitizer. Brunner said he learned an important lesson when his company took on too much debt in the '90s for new facilities and equipment. Much of the company was sold in 1995, and, since then, it has rebounded from a workforce of several dozen people to employ about 1,500.

"America cannot borrow and spend its way to prosperity," Brunner said.

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