A bipartisan backlash is lining up over Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s stance on military discounts and benefits. During a forum featuring Ashcroft and other Republicans running for governor, he was asked what Missouri should do to support active duty military members and veterans.

“The first thing we need to do is we need to do what we promised them,” he said at a Lincoln Days event in Kansas City. “That’s really clear. But, you know, this isn’t really probably what you’d want for your answer for your question, but I don’t think we ought to treat people based on classifications. I think we ought to treat everybody equally. And I don’t think we ought to say that, ‘If you live here, we’re going to charge you this but if you live here, we charge you this.’ I don’t think we ought to say, ‘If you’re in the military, we give you this discount, but everybody else has to pay twice as much.’”

Ashcroft said he appreciates veterans.

“Why don’t we just say that government is the problem and let’s get government out of the way? Let people make their own decisions and not be picking and choosing winners and losers. I appreciate veterans. I have veterans in my family. I like what they’ve done. But what we ought to do is say, ‘If it’s good for veterans, it’s good to do it for everyone.’”

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, a Republican who is also running for governor, participated in the forum at a Lincoln Days event in Kansas City. He said for Ashcroft to treat veterans as anything less than heroes is disrespectful to all veterans and their families.

“As a small business owner who supported local veterans organizations, as a member of American Legion Post 5 in Jefferson City, and as the state’s advocate for veterans, I was actually appalled,” Kehoe told Missourinet. “Missouri honors our heroes, period. Missouri has 470,000 men and women who have served our country. We have countless numbers of communities, almost every community I go to large and small, who have privately raised money to honor our veterans and their service to our country. And that’s the state we are and that’s the state we need to be in. Communities across our state value our nation’s heroes and their service and sacrifice to our country, and they would want their governor to do the same.”

Sen. Bill Eigel, a U.S. Air Force veteran who is also running for governor, told Missourinet that Republicans and Democrats are unified in condemning Ashcroft.

“Jay Ashcroft was asked point blank what he would do for the veterans of this state and his answer was nothing special, we don’t deserve anything special. That is what he said and quite frankly I was stunned. That’s the kind of answer that I’m used to hearing from somebody who clearly was born with a silver spoon in their mouth,” said Eigel, R-Weldon Spring. “Secretary Ashcroft’s dad was part of the administration that sent me overseas in 2004 to fight the War on Terror. The distinction couldn’t be more clear. Jay’s family was sending people to war. My family was being sent.”

Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, who is also running for governor, took a jab at Ashcroft. She is a Democrat from Springfield.

So did Missouri Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence.

Missourinet reached out to Ashcroft’s campaign for a follow-up response:

“It is shameful that we have failed to fulfill our commitment to our veterans. No Americans make a greater sacrifice for our freedoms and security than the men and women who wear the uniform of our armed forces. The sacrifices that they and their families make are unimaginable for those of us who have not served,” said Ashcroft.

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