By Susan Redden
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Mitt Romney’s performance in the presidential debate on Wednesday night should boost gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence and other Republicans on the ballot in Missouri, Spence said Thursday.
Romney “looked and sounded presidential,” Spence said during a stop at Joplin GOP campaign headquarters before meeting supporters at Cunningham Park.
With just over a month to go before the election, Spence said he is working to convince voters that his background in business will make him better suited to boost Missouri’s economy and bring more jobs to the state.
“The people I talk to around the state are worried about having a job, and putting food on the table and gas in their cars,” he said. “I’ve been in business for 27 years, and Jay Nixon has been on the state payroll for 26 years.”
Spence stepped down as president of Alpha Packaging, a St. Louis plastics manufacturer, to enter the gubernatorial race. He said there will be funding to stay in the contest, though Nixon, the Democratic incumbent, has raised far more money for his campaign.
Through early September, Nixon had raised $12.2 million and had $6.3 million on hand. Spence had raised $5.8 million, including $2 million he lent to his campaign, and had $1.4 million on hand.
“We’ll have the money to go toe-to-toe,” Spence said. “We’ll be on TV right up to Nov. 6.”
Spence said Missouri’s economy has fallen behind during Nixon’s tenure in office because the governor “is a career politician without any background in business.”
He said that to make Missouri more competitive, the state needs to adopt a right-to-work law like those in place in most surrounding states, and “true tort reform and true work comp reforms.”
“We also need true medical malpractice reform so we don’t have situations like Joplin has, where a lot of the doctors are moving across the state line into Kansas,” he said.
He said he believes all those changes could be made “if there wasn’t opposition from a governor whose loyalty is to labor unions and trial lawyers.”
Spence said he has discussed those priorities with GOP leadership in the House and Senate, and that he would work with lawmakers to make those things happen.
He also criticized commercials being run by the Nixon campaign, saying Nixon was not responsible for the state’s AAA credit rating or a balanced budget.
“The state has had that credit rating since 1962, and the constitution requires a balanced budget,” he said.
Isaac Wright, spokesman for the Missouri Democratic Party, said that a bank where Spence was on the board “took a $40 million bailout that he voted not to repay, so perhaps we should assume he’d be the kind of governor who wouldn’t care about balancing the budget and protecting taxpayer dollars.”
Because of balanced budgets under the Nixon administration, Wright said, Missouri has protected its AAA credit rating and recently led the Midwest in job creation.
Spence said he was not on the board of Reliance Bank in St. Louis when the vote was taken to seek funds under the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program. He said he was on the board for about six months, which included the instance when the board voted to delay repayment of the loan on the advice of federal regulators.
Lead in polls
DEMOCRATS ON THURSDAY cited polling they said showed Gov. Jay Nixon is favored by 19 points — 54 percent to 35 percent — over Dave Spence. Also on the ballot for governor will be Jim Higgins, a Libertarian from St. Louis.