With the gubernatorial primary only three months away, Republican Bill Randles is hoping his traditional, conservative views will help him secure his party’s nomination to take on incumbent Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon.
Randles told The Missourian Thursday he has built up a large grassroots network around the state.
Randles said he has raised about $150,000 in funds for his campaign.
According to his April quarterly financial report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Randles had about $5,000 cash on hand with another $36,400 in indebtedness for his campaign as of the start of last month.
Dave Spence, a Republican St. Louis area business owner who also is running for governor, reported $1.74 million cash on hand and $255,000 in indebtedness on his April quarterly report.
The two other Republican candidates, John Weiler, Pevely, and Fred Sauer, St. Louis, did not submit financial reports in April, likely because they had not yet formed campaign committees.
Randles said he sees Spence as his chief opponent for the primary.
While the two have some similarities, Randles said he is the better choice for Republicans.
“I like him personally, but all Dave’s really got going for him is a large checkbook,” Randles said. “He doesn’t have a plan for the state. I’m very confident I’ll beat him in the primary.”
He said he and Spence have spoken at dozens of Republican Lincoln Day events around the state in recent months.
Plan for Missouri
Randles said he does have a plan.
He supports a judicial reform which would replace the current nonpartisan system for electing judges with partisan elections.
Randles also supports making Missouri a “right-to-work” state and offering school choice to parents of failing school districts.
“We have two of the worst school districts (in Kansas City and St. Louis) in the country,” he said. “I’m for vouchers. I think competition is good for business and it will be good for our schools.
“As a conservative, if I believe in the private sector (in business), then why not in education?” he asked.
Randles said throwing money at the failing districts isn’t the solution, noting that spending per student in St. Louis is significantly higher than the state average.
Randles said the state also needs to become more business friendly.
“Nixon’s record isn’t good. Missouri is 49th in job creation,” he said.
That statistic is from the state GOP, which pointed out in a TV ad funded by the Democratic Governors Association last month ranked Missouri just ahead of Wisconsin.
Nixon’s office reported the state added 27,500 jobs in the first quarter of 2012, more than all of the neighboring states.
Randles said the state’s current method of economic development is failing.
“It’s a Band-aid on a wound the state created,” he said. “Simply create fair rules for everyone and the jobs will come. Government is driving business off with a whip in one hand and when some come to the other hand, the hand holding the honey, the politicians want all the credit.”
Randles said government should provide boundaries for the business world, “but the private sector should lead.
“Business has a way of being nimble and looking forward, whereas government is slow to act and backward-looking,” he said.
Randles blamed unions for part of the problem, claiming unionization has increased since Nixon took office, up to 12 percent in the state. He said the national average is 7 percent.
Nationally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership is 6.9 percent for the private sector and 37 percent for the public sector.
Missouri did increase in union membership from 2010 to 2011, from 9.9 percent of those employed to 10.9 percent.
The number of employed workers represented by unions, meaning both those who are union members and those who report no union affiliation but work in jobs covered by a union or employee association contract, increased from 11.1 percent in 2010 to 12.5 percent last year, according to the labor bureau.
Since Nixon has been in public office, Randles said, “the state has deteriorated in every way.”
He said he can beat Nixon in November.
“He will be a tough guy to beat, he’s been in office a long time. His money is from corporations, trial lawyers and unions, but for a guy who has spent a lifetime in office, his numbers show he’s very beatable,” Randles said.
It will be an uphill battle, but as of February, Randles was polling better than Spence in a race against Nixon.
Nixon was favored 47-29 over Randles in a Public Policy Polling poll, while the governor’s numbers against Spence were 47-27.
Randles was reported as being unknown to 76 percent of those polled, while Spence was unknown to 79 percent and current Auditor Tom Schweich, considered at the time a potential gubernatiorial challenger, was reported as unknown to 72 percent.
The same poll showed Nixon with a 44 percent job approval rating.
Randles has picked up a few local endorsements including from state Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, and state Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific.
He said he has made five campaign stops in Franklin County so far.
Critical of Obama
While Randles is seeking a state office, he spoke critically of another candidate he isn’t even facing — President Barack Obama.
Randles said he received his law degree from Harvard University, attending at the same time as Obama.
The two had one class together, a 12-person constitutional law seminar, Randles said.
He joked that during his time at Harvard University, he was a minority himself — a conservative.
“When (Obama) ran and won, I told folks I know what he is going to do, and it won’t be good,” he said.
Randles said Obama’s campaign for the White House four years ago and his interest in public policy drove him to become involved in politics himself.
He has not previously held public office, something he said “is a plus these days.”
Randles said Obama’s election showed that Republicans needed to change.
He said conservatives have often been about getting government out of their lives, but in doing so have, generally speaking, not developed as good of a knowledge of how government works as “the liberals running it.”
Randles said his background as a lawyer, ordained minister, pastor and businessman has given him a solid understanding of how government works.
Randles said his wife, Bev, is his campaign manager.