MO-GOV: Hulshof v Steelman Debate Notes

GOP Gubernatorial candidates Sarah Steelman and Kenny Hulshof debated today on KMOX’s Mark Reardon Show. You can find audio of the debate on the show’s website. I’ll include a few of my own comments at the end along with a few other items of interest.


Opening Remarks

Hulshof: Nixon wants to take us back to the days where 1 out of every 5 Missourians is dependent on the state. Nixon is fighting the important steps that are needed to foster economic growth.

Steelman: Elected officials often forget that they are dealing with the people’s money. She wants to make sure that she is spending those dollars efficiently. She sets the stage for taking on Hulshof on earmarks and ethanol.

Question 1

Respond to AG Nixon’s health care proposal and what is your health care plan?

Hulshof: Doesn’t want a return to a welfare state. He likes the idea of free market solutions without mandates: tax credits for small businesses, etc.

Stelman: Doesn’t buy that Nixon’s plan can be put in place without a tax increase. She reminds listeners that the pre-Blunt Medicaid system left Blunt with a budget deficit. She wants to increase competition by more open pricing.

Hulshof: He reminds everyone that he is the only candidate that pushed for tort reform.

Question 2

We are currently running our budget on surpluses, but in the next few years we will face deficits. How will you make up for the short fall in revenue?

Steelman: Doesn’t believe that we can tax our way out of the problem. She advocates low tax, business friendly policies that will promote economic growth and increase state revenues that way. [You can find Steelman’s highlights of her economic background here]

Hulshof: Reminds everyone that he was endorsed by the Missouri State Chamber of Commerce. Also wants to attract technology and knowledge based jobs that would help expand the economy to increase tax revenues. [You can find Hulshof’s economic plan here]

Steelman: Invest in education to improve the work force.

Question 3

For Hulshof: Ads focus on career as a public defender. What are your Congressional accomplishments?

Hulshof: Ads are intended to be a biographical introduction to the rest of the state that doesn’t know me. Highlights Federal Ticket to Work Bill.

Steelman: Hulshof has supported billions of dollars of wasted: Maine Lobster Institute, Woodstock Museum, museum memorializing jails in Kansas City. Why isn’t Hulshof talking about these?

Hulshof: Reminds Steelman that she did the same as a state senator. He also has a record of tax cuts.

Question 4

To Steelman: You are known to ruffle feathers in your own party. Your opponent is garnering the support of the party. How are you going to get the support of the party (both for the election and to legislate)?

Steelman: She is more interested in being the governor for the people, not politicians. Government is accountable to the people.

Hulshof: Brings up “as a kid from the farm” for the first of many times. Remarks that he is getting the endorsements because those individuals believe that he is the best to run against Nixon and govern the state. He is running on a positive message (inferring that Steelman has gone negative).

Steelman: They don’t support her because of the conflict of interest policy that she pushed for that took some perks away from the legislators.

Question 5

We have seen economic problems recently: Chrysler plant closing; A-B sale; Bombardier stays in Canada. What concrete action would you take to attract and keep jobs?

Hulshof: He reminds the listeners that we led the nation in jobs lost per capita three and a half years ago. This is going to be a “pocket book” election.

Steelman: She wants to review the entire tax code to improve the ways that business is done in MO. She wants to put together a group of economists, business leaders and other citizens to construct a more small business and family friendly tax environment.

Hulshof: “Kid from the farm” makes another appearance. He touts his higher education funding formula to increase education to improve the work force.

Question 6

What are your guidelines for how state tax credits should be used?

Steelman: They need to be reviewed so that they provide a benefit to everyone. She doesn’t want them to be individually subsidizing companies. They need to help everyone.

Hulshof: The use should be prudent. He feels that the Bombardier incident showed international companies that MO was serious about being a home for them. He says that he will be an advocate for Missouri to the international business community. He tags Steelman and Nixon for Missouri Housing and Development Committee.

Steelman: She would like to use our tools to attract an oil refinery due to our centralized location. She believes that now would be a good time to push for this given the energy crisis.

Question 7

How as Governor would you be able to push through a ban on legislators who also run campaign consulting businesses? [This is in reference to State Speaker of the House Rod Jetton and his questionable ethics history.] And what kind of relationship do you think a governor can have if there if there is combativeness with the house leader?

Hulshof: He intends to have a collaborative relationship. He highlights his first platform that he unveiled at the beginning of his campaign: removing the patronage system in license offices, Missouri ethics commission with teeth, a lobbying gift ban and campaign finance reform. [Here is the press release on Hulshof’s ethics reform package.]

Steelman: She wants the citizens of Missouri to know that legislators have the citizen’s best interests in heart, not the politicians. She wants to ban legislators being able to steer tax dollars into their own pockets.

Hulshof: Does that include steering $9.8MM into a bank where your husband is on the board? Lead a filibuster on tort reform because your husband is an attorney? When you give substantial discounts to those who donated to your campaign when you headed the Missouri Housing Development Committee.

Question 8

Ethanol: You cite competing studies on the impact of ethanol on food and gas prices. What is more important: reducing our dependence on foreign oil or hurting Missouri families.

Steelman: She wants to remove that mandates. She says that mandates are what the Soviet Union used to do. She quotes a Show-Me Institute study that points to the ethanol mandate costing the state over a billion dollars. We need to allow the free market to determine what alternative energies we use.

Hulshof: My position on ethanol has been consistent. He sees ethanol as a way to wean ourselves off of foreign oil. He also supports “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.” and any alternative form of energy that can move us towards independence.

Steelman: She reminds Hulshof that subsidies are propping up ethanol. Get rid of the mandate and subsidies and allow consumers to decide if they want it.

Question 9

As Governor, what concrete steps can you take to reduce gas prices?

Hulshof: We need to improve our infrastructure to get to the oil in Missouri. We are looking into hydro-power with the new dams that are being built in Northeast Missouri. He wants all options on the table.

Steelman: End the ethanol mandate. She also supports market production of alternative fuels. She calls again for the building of an oil refinery here in Missouri.

Hulshof: He goes back to ethanol as a necessity. He believes that ending the mandate would add 40 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas.

Question 10

Local to St. Louis: A local lawmaker recently called for the Governor to send in the Missouri National Guard to supplement the city’s police department in response to an increase in violence in the city. The Governor has promised that he would monitor the situation and send in the Guard as needed (which he has not done yet). What would you do as Governor?

Steelman: I would consider it. We have to help local officials fight crime by providing the necessary tools. We have to get at the root of crime by increasing education and promoting jobs growth.

Hulshof: He would like truth in sentencing legislation (This would put more structure to sentences pushing for at least 85% of sentences served).

Steelman: She supports the truth in sentencing issue. She also supports the death penalty as a crime deterrent.

Question 11

What do you see as Governor Blunt’s biggest accomplishment? Failure? Why do you think that the voters have a lower opinion of the Governor than Hulshof and Steelman do?

Hulshof: He inherited a budget that was $1BB out of balance and jobs that were fleeing the state. He has turned around the state’s economy and budget. He implemented tort reform. Hulshof would have integrated the care of the chronically ill with respect to Medicaid.

Steelman: He has created a better business environment by keeping taxes low and government small. This has led to a state budget that is now in surplus. She disagreed with Governor Blunt on MOHELA(Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority) and she also would have phased in the Medicaid cuts.

Hulshof: Hulshof supports the Lewis and Clark Initiative (with respect to MOHELA). He feels that it was a shot in the arm for higher education.

Question 12

Why do you think you are the best candidate to face Jay Nixon? What would be your first ad against him?

Steelman: I am more interested in representing the people of the state. I am able to stand up against the party establishment. She fought to eliminate legislative pensions. She has fought wasteful spending. She stood up against lawmakers lining their pockets with taxpayer money.

Hulshof: He feels that he can draw the sharpest contrast with Nixon. He supports tort reform. He opposes collective bargaining of state employees. Both are issues that he is at odds with Steelman and Nixon.

Steelman: She reminds the listeners that Hulshof voted for mandatory collective bargaining for public employees.

Question 13

What specific changes might you make in how state government operates?

Hulshof: He wants to move towards an efficient government. He highlights that his congressional office has returned funds to the Treasury. He wants to bring this same discipline to the state government. He congratulates the Missouri Department of Transportation for its fiscal discipline.

Steelman: She wants to spend every dollar efficiently to keep government small. She cut and reduced the size of her office. She was able to produce more interest income for the state.

Hulshof: “I appreciate who pays the bills.” He intends to lead by example by leading an efficient government. He cites Governor Blunt’s cap on state employees and feels that would be a good policy to continue.

Closing Statements

Hulshof: Missouri faces some significant challenges. Missouri deserves a government that is open and honest. He wants to unite Missourians around common values. He is an unapologetic conservative. He points to similarities on life and gun issues. He lays claim the candidate that can draw the sharpest contrast to Nixon (harkening back to Question 12).

Steelman: She calls herself the conservative choice in this election. She calls on her authoring the marriage amendment. She cut off tax payer money to terror sponsoring states. She wants to bring her common sense problem solving to the Governor’s office. She recognizes the shaky economy and wants to make sure that there is someone in the Governor’s office that will look out for the tax payers and their money.

My Thoughts

It was clear right from the opening remarks that Steelman was going to continue to bring the fight to Hulshof. She was going to shape herself as the reformer and the anti-establishment candidate. Over all I don’t think that there was a true winner on this debate. There were positives to be had for both camps. Although, I will say that I was not very impressed with Steelman’s debating skills. She “um”ed and “ah”ed quite a bit. She also seemed like she couldn’t keep track of some of the points that she wanted to make. If she ends up going on to the general election she is going to need some help in this department to take on Nixon.

On question number 5 (and the follow-up with number 60 with regard to the economy, I think that both candidates have missed the ball. The Show-Me Institute published an article that stated that lower tax rates are favorable to tax credits. They argue that an overall tax reduction will lead to more economic growth than the tax credits because it offers incentives to grow to every business, not just the hot-topic business politically.

Hulshof will not break his ties to the ethanol mandate. I’m starting to think at this point it could be the hill that he dies on, especially in St. Louis, Kansas City and their suburbs. There are far fewer corn growers in the area that buy into the need for the mandate now. I expect that Steelman will continue to highlight this issue for the next two weeks.

My general impression of the race so far is that I want to support Steelman, but I feel that Hulshof will have a better shot electorally. [The opposite of how I came out in the primary. I supported Thompson, but thought that he was a long shot at best.]

Other Tidbits on the MO-GOV Race

All three candidates for Governor will be chatting with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch online. The schedule can be found here.

The Post-Dispatch has created a side-by-side comparison of the three candidates with video clips taken from the paper’s interviews of the three.

Sarah Steelman has launched a new website: Who is the real Kenny?. She really is going to go hard after Hulshof as just another politician.

Kenny Hulshof’s fund raising numbers were very impressive for the prior quarter. They were so good that he even out-raised Jay Nixon. He did so in five of the seven regions in Missouri.