CLOUT: ‘Never Count Todd Akin Out,’ Says Former Staffer Patrick Werner

CLOUT is a regular feature from Beyond November that profiles the pols, pals and pundits who influence the candidates and their campaigns. Have a suggestion for a Clout profile? Send an e-mail to Richard Weiss at rweiss@stlbeacon.org.

This interview for Beyond November was conducted and written by Tim Poor, a former Washington correspondent and national editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Name:  Patrick Werner

Party: Republican

Age: 41

Job:  State Director, Americans for Prosperity-Missouri

Education: Quincy University, Webster University

Clout:  Werner cut his political teeth in the office of Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, becoming Bond’s district director in 1998-2000.  He joined Rep. Jim Talent’s gubernatorial campaign in 2000 as political director; after Talent lost to Bob Holden, Werner set up the office for Talent’s replacement in Congress, Todd Akin.  He was Akin’s district director until last year, when he joined Americans for Prosperity, the anti-tax organization founded by billionaire David Koch.  Werner directs the group in Missouri, one of 16 states the group has targeted this year.  Although AFP doesn’t endorse candidates, its work is supportive of Republicans, such as its big negative ad buy against Senate candidate Claire McCaskill in August.  The group is backing the November ballot initiative to require legislative approval for the state to create insurance exchanges called for by the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.  (The law calls for the federal government to set up exchanges in states that fail to do so). In addition to working to overturn Obamacare, the group is backing legislation in Missouri to cap state spending.

I know I’ve done a good job when …:  “When someone sends me a handwritten note thanking me or saying, ‘Hey that was a great job.’”

Beyond November:  Everyone’s going to be talking about Obamacare, but the biggest issue for me is a balanced budget amendment at the federal level.  I think the timing is right. It is time to get serious about spending. I think we can get that out of the House and move into some real spending cuts.

Biggest political disappointment: The 2000 governor’s race (in which Holden beat Talent).  “It was a great opportunity for me, so much responsibility, so much fun.  It was a close election.  That one kind of hit me pretty hard.”

Political hero:  Brad Scott, who was Bond’s Missouri director and Talent’s campaign manager.  “He has an incredible work ethic.”  And Catherine Hanaway, his boss in Bond’s office.  “She’s just so smart.”

Most important race: Governor.  “I just think Missouri needs some really bold ideas and attitudes.  We lost a congressional seat, we’re falling behind.”

Underrated race:  Missouri treasurer.  “No one’s really talking about that race.  It’s flying under the radar screen.”

Biggest primary surprise:  Akin.  “Everyone thought Brunner was going to win big.  I’m not surprised Akin won, but by how big he won.”

Akin/McCaskill prediction:  “I’ve learned to never count Todd Akin out.  But I think it’s an uphill battle.  We’re sort of in uncharted waters – it’s the first time Missouri doesn’t have a presidential race (neither candidate is campaigning in the state) – none of us really know what that means.  We don’t know what the turnout is going to look like.”

Posted in CLOUT: Influential pols, pals & pundits, Commentary