Gov debate sends some sparks
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Gov debate sends some sparks

Date: September 11, 2008
By: Sarah D. Wire and Valerie Insinna
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - During Thursday's governor's debate the two primary party candidates became rather heated on a smattering of topics despite both sides earlier call for a genteel conversation in recognition of Sept. 11.

Democratic candidate and Attorney General Jay Nixon repeated his call for a civil debate during his opening remarks saying "we're all keenly aware of today's date."

On three of the afternoon's key issues including campaign contribution limits, higher education and health care, the candidates briefly disavowed that pledge.

Things got most heated during a question about contribution limits, which also spurred the day's only rebuttal.

"This fully-disclosed, unlimited contributions is better than the other system but I also put in ethics proposal campaign limits, and I adhere to that proposal that I put forward," GOP candidate and Congressman Kenny Hulshof said.

Nixon became upset and accused Hulshof of changing his mind about the limits.

"He said that he would sign the bill ending campaign limits, then he said that the problem with that bill was the passive committees and recently has passed hundreds of thousands of dollars, even after the limits were off through those very committees," Nixon said. "That might be the way they work in Washington, but in Jeff City and Missouri that's not the doublespeak we operate under."

Both candidates also attacked their opponent's education plans.

Nixon touted his Missouri Promise Program, which adds to the current A+ program and allows students who complete community service and meet other factors to finish their degree at a four-year university for free.

Hulshof said such a program would push students into community college as a first option.

"We shouldn't pick community colleges at the expense of four-year institutions," Hulshof said.

On lower education, Hulshof said he wants to offer incentives for new math and science teachers.

In his opening statements Hulshof said he was the only candidate concerned about St. Louis and Kansas City Schools.

Nixon said he wants to rewrite the foundation formula, which determines how much money public schools receive and also said Missouri should not give vouchers to private schools.

"None of these plans will work if we take public money and give it to private schools," Nixon said.

The two candidates also argued about the state's health care system. Nixon proposed reversing the Medicaid cuts made in 2005 and restoring Medicaid in Missouri.

"We've turned away almost 1.5 billion dollars that you and I've paid in taxes that's now being used for health care in other states," Nixon said. "That is simply not smart financially and wrong morally to live in a state where there's a three-year-old with a fever, and there's nothing they can do."

Hulshof supports private health care that is subsidized by the state for those who cannot pay the premium.

"Health max is a comprehensive plan that first of all deals with those on the low economic rungs of our state that no longer qualify for Medicaid," Hulshof said.

The rest of the debate covered issues such as energy, including the proposed nuclear power plant in Callaway County, and road safety..

The debate only consisted of seven questions due in part to the inclusion of the third party candidates Libertarian candidate Andy Finkenstadt and Constitutional candidate Greg Thompson.

Finkenstadt and Thompson both expressed appreciation for being included in the debate and Finkenstadt joked about not worrying about campaign contribution limits because he would "love to hit the campaign limit."

One issue all candidates agreed on was if they would resolve the pending lawsuit against Republican Gov. Matt Blunt regarding the improper storage of state e-mails. The lawsuit is not expected to be resolved before the end of the Blunt administration.

The debate at the University of Missouri was sponsored by the Missouri Press Association and occurred in conjunction with the centennial of the Missouri School of Journalism.