Republican challenger Dave Spence on Monday described Democratic Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon as "a tool of special interests" such as labor unions and personal injury attorneys as he rallied with supporters nearly two weeks before Election Day.
Spence originally had planned to feature Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as the headline attraction at the Jefferson City rally and a pair of fundraisers in Kansas City and suburban St. Louis. But Walker canceled his Missouri appearances, citing Sunday's fatal shooting at a suburban Milwaukee spa.
Walker gained national stature - and survived a recall election - for his quest to limit the collective bargaining powers of Wisconsin public employee unions. Spence wants to make Missouri a "right to work" state, in which union dues cannot be a condition of employment in public or private-sector jobs. Spence also has been critical of the strong financial backing Nixon has received from unions and trial attorneys.
"He's a tool of special interests," Spence told about 150 supporters sitting around picnic tables under a pavilion at a Jefferson City park.
Spence contends there a connection between Nixon's financial contributions and his policy decisions, including his veto of bills changing workers' compensation laws and making it harder for plaintiffs to win employment discrimination cases. Although Spence and business groups contend the changes are essential to boosting Missouri's business climate, Nixon said at the time of the vetoes that the bills would have taken a step backward in the protections offered to workers.
"Dave Spence is resorting to petty attacks that just don't hold water. Missourians know Gov. Jay Nixon is an independent and experienced leader," said Nixon campaign spokeswoman Channing Ansley.
Earlier in his remarks Monday, Spence said he wants "to make Missouri the most business friendly place on the planet."
Afterward, Spence told reporters that he doesn't consider his own supporters, such as the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to be special interest groups.
The chamber "represents 13,000 businesses in our state, from one person to Boeing. That's who's paying the bills in our state," Spence said.
Spence and Nixon differ not only in their base of support, but in their view of Missouri's economy. Nixon cites declining unemployment figures and specific business expansions - such as by Ford and General Motors - to assert Missouri's economy is improving. Spence cites figures showing a significant number of Missourians have given up trying to find work and references boarded up buildings in rural downtowns around Missouri.
On Monday, Spence also said he would be more aggressive than Nixon in trying to battle methamphetamine. Nixon has supported proposals to require a doctor's prescription to purchase medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in meth. Spence said he's willing to look at that option, but he said he be aggressive in pushing the federal government to approve a new form of pseudoephedrine - developed by the suburban St. Louis firm Highland Pharmaceuticals - that can't be used to make methamphetamine.
"I will get Missourians off of meth, and we will get our state going," Spence said.