By DAVID A. LIEB
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson parlayed a career in manufacturing into a seat in the U.S. Senate. Now, Johnson is trying to help a Missouri Republican with a similar background accomplish the same thing.
Johnson attended a fundraiser and campaign event Wednesday in suburban St. Louis for John Brunner, one of three prominent Republicans seeking to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in November. A Brunner spokesman said the campaign hopes to raise $50,000 from the event.
Both Johnson and Brunner have backgrounds in family manufacturing businesses.
Not long after college, Johnson joined his brother-in-law's fledgling company, Pacur LLC, and rose from a machine operator to an accountant before eventually becoming president of the plastics-packaging manufacturer based in Oshkosh, Wis.
Brunner grew up in the family business of Vi-Jon Inc. After attending college and serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, he eventually became CEO and chairman of the St. Louis-based health care products company.
Johnson and Brunner come from the same generation - Johnson is 57, Brunner 60. Both are married fathers of three adult children. And both have poured millions of their own wealth into their Senate campaigns.
After Johnson ousted Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold in the 2010 election, Brunner met with the freshman senator last year in Washington while trying to decide whether to embark on a similar campaign against McCaskill. Like Johnson, Brunner is campaigning on his private-sector experience.
"Both of us have backgrounds in terms of understanding what kind of environment works - and what kind of environment is suppressive - to job creation," Brunner said.
Added Johnson: "It's extremely important that we bring more of what I would refer to as 'citizen legislators' to Washington - people that have lived a full life, maybe raised a family, but had a full career."
Brunner's competitors in the Aug. 7 Republican primary include U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of suburban St. Louis and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman of Rolla. All three have been appearing together at candidate forums hosted around the state, and all three have emphasized the need to get reduce government interefence in business to help spur the economy.