Five questions with Dave Spence


The Missouri Times: Months into the first year of Gov. Jay Nixon’s second term, we thought we would catch you up with the man he ran against last fall.

Dave Spence
Dave Spence

Have you been surprised at the way in which Nixon has governed to begin his second term

Dave Spence: Gov. Jay Nixon is back to being a Democrat. He tried not to answer any questions on any subject or come out of hiding during the election of last year. He is all politics all the time. He is somewhat of a one-subject leader. His big push right now is Medicaid and paying back his contributors by harnessing good ideas from implementation. His style is one of micromanaging his departments and looking at what possible implications any decision or move will have on his future political ambitions. This type of management style will not move Missouri forward and get us out of our doldrums.

TMT: What is your reaction on the governor’s Medicaid push, and what do you think about possible expansion?

Spence: His change of position on Medicaid expansion was decided as the votes were tallied on election night. He is looking at a short-term gain and not looking at how future Missourians will pay for it. The short sighted bunch want it immediately, but I truly think that we should not succumb to the bribery that the federal government is doing to try to force the program into place.

If the state does choose to move forward with Medicaid expansion, the obvious things that should be implemented along with it are common sense things, such as reinstating medical malpractice caps, instituting loser-pay lawsuits that will reduce frivolous lawsuits in Missouri, increase the number of free market rate urgent care facilities across the state to keep people from habitually seeking care at emergency rooms, more frequent qualification periods for eligibility, and start closing the gap on some of the fraud in the Medicaid system.

I also do not think it is right to just say ‘no’ to the expansion without a solution for how we could implement it and make it work. I am all for a safety net for our citizens truly in need, but let’s be smart about it and make sure that we can have savings in the system to offset the increases. To me, this is a common sense, real world solution.

TMT: After making your way around the state, what do you think is the most important thing Missouri can do to grow its economy?

Spence: Missouri needs to concentrate on what we do well.  We have many great industries in our state such as agriculture, medical, timber, veterinary, pharmaceutical, plant and life sciences, and financial services, just to name a few. There is no reason that Missouri has to be a slow-growth state.  We need to work on several things to show that we mean it when we say Missouri is open for business.

As I mentioned often during the 2012 campaign, our state is the “Sue me State” and this will only chase away businesses. I also think that we need to change our mindset that a four-year degree is the only pathway to success. There is a big need for areas such as welders, truck drivers, HVAC technicians, tool and die makers and medical technicians. The trade schools and junior colleges need to be emphasized as great sources of market ready students.

We also need to start thinking as Missourians versus thinking regionally or locally. There is a communication gap between rural and urban Missouri that results in us coming across as a divided state.  Missourians need to start buying from each other. If all Missouri businesses started buying myopically from other Missouri businesses, we could change our economy nearly overnight. Of course, you have to apply common sense to this and it will not work across the board.

I also think that we need to tighten the unemployment benefits in our state that make it too easy to stay unemployed. There are jobs out there that are going wanting for lack of qualified candidates. In addition, I like the idea of a reduced income tax and higher consumption tax of some kind. There are so many incentives for some to stay under the poverty line and it encourages a cash economy. I don’t endorse any specific idea, but it will be interesting to watch Tennessee’s model to see what impact it has going forward.

TMT: What is going on in your life now?

Spence: For now, I am taking a breather and staying involved in the conversations in our state. We met so many great people around our state and do not want to lose contact with them. Suzie and I had a great experience getting to travel around and meet and visit with fellow Missourians in all 114 counties. I am still involved with several businesses and that is filling my bucket somewhat.

Last year was kind of a blur and there are many friends and activities that I plan to re-engage with going forward. We went to the Super Bowl and Kentucky Derby along with several other great trips. I have been asked to speak around the state and I really enjoy it. It has been very interesting to take a step back and process my gubernatorial campaign. I am proud of the courage and the effort. We tried to change the conversation about Missouri and come up with solutions versus continuing the mediocrity of the progress.

I am disappointed in the continuance of some people to not learn from this past election cycle and de-emphasize social issues to concentrate on the issues that not only win elections, but that create jobs and help strengthen Missouri families. We have to learn as Republicans that if we say no to something that we must have the solution to offer as well. I continue to think that politics should be about progress, not a scoreboard. We have taken it too far into who is right and wrong, versus truly looking at what is best for our state and our fellow Missourians.

On a lighter side, I have seen a ton of movies, read several books, and gave in to my wife Suzie and watched several episodes of the Bachelor, Dancing with the Stars and Fashion Police. I would not recommend this without a dose of estrogen. I have seen many sporting events that our kids are playing and plan to spend a lot of time at the lake this summer. In other words, I am smelling the roses and concentrating on what we can do to continue the conversation about moving Missouri forward.

TMT: Are you interested in running for office again?

Spence: This may sound like a political answer but I would not rule anything out. The least attractive part of running is the fund raising part of it. I enjoyed the experience and I would certainly take the lessons learned and apply it. I am not hung up that I have to be the candidate or the office holder. I just want our state to move forward and quit kicking the can down the road on some issues that would move the needle.

Most career politicians play defense and are calculated about every move. I am more in the mold of Chris Christie. Boldly lead the state, say what you mean and mean what you say. Raise the bar and the expectations of our state and its performance. Quit saying why things can’t be done and get it done. Missouri, in my mind, is like a third generation family business that is afraid of any type of growth initiative for fear of losing what we have. The shareholders want their dividends but do not want to risk anything. Companies like that die eventually and it is a recipe for disaster. True leadership in the Governors office can move our state forward. True leadership can bring Missourians together. True leadership can pick which battles are worth having and which ones divide our state. We are all proud to be in Missouri. Let’s harness that pride and let’s get the momentum back in our state that has been slowly eroding for quite a while. Whether it is me or someone else, let’s elect a leader that will envision us getting back to a growth state and get back on offense versus defense. We need a leader that will not be swayed by the donations, but be bold in standing up for 5.9 million Missourians and lead them to victory.