COLUMBIA, MO. (KPLR) - Democratic Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and the man who wants to relieve him of his job come next year, Republican businessman Dave Spence, debated for the first time in this election season Friday at a Missouri Press Association candidate forum in Columbia, Missouri.
The debate lasted one hour, and a lot of the time was spent on the topic of jobs, with the Governor touting his record, and his challenger trashing it.
'We are making real progress,' Nixon said. 'That is why we`ve seen the jobs report show our unemployment rate below the national average, that is why we created the third most jobs of any state in the country including 4,900 new manufacturing jobs in this state this month alone.'
Spence offered numbers supporting his own version of the jobs story.
'We are 48th out of 50 (states) in economic growth the last ten years. We are 50th in the states in job creation since 2008 and close to one million Missourians are on food stamps out of six million,' Spence said. 'Is this truly the best we can do?'
By far, the nastiest moments came as Spence repeatedly charged Nixon with running a "pay to play" administration, particularly when it comes to laws that would limit jury awards.
'Our governor, career politician, has taken in $2.4 million from plaintiff`s attorneys,' Spence said. 'They are dictating policy on healthcare in this state. It is not right.'
Nixon pushed back.
'People know how independent I am,' said Nixon. 'I`ve been at this a while.’
Spence repeatedly reminded the audience this is his first run for political office, and that his business background would serve him well as governor.'
'I am not a politician and that is my best asset,' he said. 'In the real world, this CEO (Nixon) would be fired.'
About school vouchers, Spence said right now he does not favor them. The Governor said they were a "radical idea" that won`t work.
Both men agreed on a few things, including opposition to a proposed tobacco tax hike, and they both said they favor gun rights, with Spence going so far as to call gun ownership, 'a God given right.'
Neither man talked to reporters immediately after the debate, but the Spence campaign issued a press release calling their candidate, 'the clear winner.'
As of 5 P.M. Friday evening, there was no statement from the Governor`s campaign about the debate.