Here’s a question: Who’s the Republican nominee for Missouri governor?
Got a name? If not, you’re hardly alone. I asked 15 voters on Friday, and only one came up with the right answer: Dave Spence.
It’s been a tough campaign. This week came the news that Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling had Spence trailing incumbent Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon by 19 points. Nixon led among independent voters by 54-31 percent, and was winning a sizable 23 percent of GOP voters.
On TV, Nixon is pounding Spence for his ties to a bank, Reliance Bancshares Inc., which accepted $40 million in federal bailout dollars and has yet to pay any of it back.
Then there’s the Todd Akin factor. Akin, the embattled Republican Senate nominee, is blocking the sun for all Missouri candidates, Democratic or Republican. Because of his controversial statements about rape, Akin has the media spotlight virtually to himself, much to the detriment of candidates such as Spence.
In an interview, Spence glossed over all this. He was mostly upbeat, determined and insistent that he’s got a shot.
“I cannot control all those things,” he said about the Akin effect. “It is what it is.”
Borrowing an old political cliché, Spence said a month remains before Election Day, and that’s an eternity in politics.
At times, however, his frustration seeped through. At one point, Spence accused Nixon of “lying, lying, lying, lying” in his ad about his involvement with Reliance Bancshares. He was particularly upset that Nixon referred to him as a banker. He’s not, Spence said, although he served on the bank’s board. Nixon’s camp defended its use of the word.
Nixon, Spence contends, is “an empty suit” prone to “political double-speak” and lacks substance.
Spence charged that Missouri is way behind in job creation, which Nixon counters with a bevy of his own statistics that show otherwise. Spence said Kansas, with its big income-tax cuts this year, is way ahead of Missouri on the job front.
Missouri’s current fiscal situation won’t allow for similar tax cuts, Spence said. But the state can work to become a right-to-work state, push for tort reform and seek to ensure that losing parties in lawsuits pay legal costs.
“We’re now called the Sue-Me-State, not the Show-Me State,” he said.
How much help he’ll get from the Kansas City area is debatable. He insists he’s been in the area a lot, though I’ve barely seen him. I showed up for his 9:30 a.m. Tuesday tour of the Negro Leagues Museum, which his campaign had announced, but Spence was a no show.
He said later he had another appointment.
Spence has poured $4 million of his own money into the race. So I wondered: Would he run again knowing what he does now?
You bet, he said. “People are starving for a leader who will tell the truth.”
To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.