JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
Democratic Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon won re-election Tuesday, turning back a challenge from Republican businessman Dave Spence in a job-themed campaign in which voters were given two distinctly different viewpoints on the health of Missouri’s economy.
Nixon proclaimed that Missouri is “moving forward” under his watch. He ran a centrist campaign highlighting budget cuts and tax cuts enacted in cooperation with a Republican-led Legislature. And he traveled to scores of ribbon cuttings, ground breakings and business expansions over the past couple years — each highlighting his efforts to create jobs amid an economic recovery.
Spence claimed that Nixon’s anecdotal examples masked the truth about a poor Missouri economy that trailed those of its neighboring state’s last year. He asserted that Nixon was claiming budgetary and policy successes rightly attributable to Republican lawmakers. And Spence said his own experience as a business owner made him better suited to spur economic development. He put $6.6 million of his own money into the race.
Nixon’s victory made him the first Missouri governor to win re-election since Democrat Mel Carnahan in 1996.
In his ads, Nixon declared: “We’re getting folks back to work,” citing among his statistical evidence the fact that state unemployment rates are below the national average. His top anecdotal evidence: Decisions by Ford and General Motors to invest big bucks in assembly plants in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas after the passage of an automotive incentives law during a 2010 special session called by Nixon.
Nixon also noted his steady leadership in natural disasters, though he never campaigned too overtly on the issue. In 2011 alone, Nixon was at the helm for the state’s response to a blizzard, massive flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and the deadly Joplin tornado. This year, Nixon managed the state’s response to a widespread drought.