JEFFERSON CITY - Republican candidates for the 2016 Missouri gubernatorial race emphasized their individual strengths rather than the faults of their competitors at a debate sponsored by the Cole County Republicans Tuesday.
Candidates with no previous political experience stated they would work for the people of Missouri rather than cater to special interests. According to former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, that gives voters back the power.
"If you believe that career politicians and political insiders in Jefferson City have failed you and your family and your neighbors, then you have a choice," Greitens said. "You can shut up and take it, or you can decide to do something about it."
Former CEO and businessperson John Brunner emphasized his business acumen and how that would help stimulate Missouri's economy. He also discussed how Missouri needs to expand its broadband Internet and cell phone access across the state.
Brunner asked the audience how it would be possible for him to connect with other CEOs and governors to help Missouri grow without reliable cell phone service. He also stated how nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit in Missouri could only be achieved by electing an entrepreneurial governor.
Despite their different tactics, the five candidates agreed on several points. All five candidates said passing so-called "Right to Work" legislation in Missouri was necessary to bolster the state's economy.
"It goes back to getting government out of the way of people who are willing to make investment in our state, take risk in our state, and to have the chance to compete with our neighbors," Former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway said. "So, we have to have 'Right to Work.'"
The candidates also criticized government overreach while focusing on specific aspects of the Affordable Care Act that make it more difficult for patient care providers to do their jobs. The candidates also focused on the need for change in Jefferson City.
"We have a typewriter government in an Internet age," Sen. Bob Dixon said.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder mentioned the late Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich while discussing the need to eliminate dirty politics in Missouri. Schweich died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in February after campaign ads aired mocking his physicality. Rumors from the Republican Party questioning Schweich's religion also surfaced before his death.
"I want to say something to envoke the memory of my dear friend, the late State Auditor Tom Schweich, one of the finest public servants we've had in our state," Kinder said. "And I join him in his call that it is time to end the politics of personal destruction in our state."
Kinder was the only candidate to address Schweich during the debate.