Missouri Republicans rally to start fall campaigns

Missouri Republicans seeking statewide office kick-started their fall campaigns Tuesday and called for teamwork, saying the November election will prove to be one of the most important in decades.

The differences between the major political parties have not been more stark in decades, Republican Party Executive Director Lloyd Smith said during a rally outside a GOP campaign office in Jefferson City. He said the consequences of who wins in November are the highest in his lifetime.

Republicans have large majorities in the Missouri Legislature, but Democrats hold the governor’s, attorney general’s, secretary of state’s and state treasurer’s offices. Democrats are trying to hold on to those seats, along with a U.S. Senate seat.

At the top of the Republican ticket for state offices is gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence, who has focused on the economy. He said Missouri trails other states in job creation and education, and businesses have made interest payments because of borrowing for the state unemployment fund. He said it is time for a set of “fresh eyes” in state government.

“We can change our state,” Spence said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going to take a lot of honesty from everybody working together, telling the truth, looking people in the eye, shaking hands like we all know we should do to gain trust in our elected officials.”

But the Missouri Democratic Party noted Missouri’s unemployment rate is below the national average and taxes have not been increased under Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Democratic Party spokesman Isaac Wright also criticized Spence for his connection to Reliance Bancshares Inc. The bank’s holding company received $40 million from the U.S. Treasury through the federal bailout, and Spence later was elevated to the holding company’s board of directors.

“Bus tours are cute, but when is Dave Spence going to tell Missourians what happened to the $40 million bailout that his bank took and refused to repay?” Wright said.

Spence accused Democrats of focusing on the bank as a way to distract voters from Missouri’s economic state, which he said is “not exactly something you shout from the mountaintops.”

Spence won last week’s Republican primary and claimed a majority in all but one county. He is the former president and CEO of St. Louis-based Alpha Packaging, which makes plastic bottles for pharmaceuticals and other personal health care products.

Other GOP primaries last week were closer than the governor’s race. The secretary of state contest is close enough for a recount, while the lieutenant governor campaign was combative.

Candidates in those races, along with state treasurer and attorney general, collectively encouraged their supporters Tuesday to come together.

Candidates each spoke briefly in front of campaign signs and a recreational vehicle adorned with an image of Spence. Republicans also were rallying Tuesday in Lee’s Summit, and the tour had scheduled stops Wednesday in Joplin, Springfield, Fenton and St. Peters.

Republicans making appearances at some or all of those events include U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, state Auditor Tom Schweich, U.S. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Billy Long, and congressional candidates Ann Wagner and Jacob Turk.

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