JEFFERSON CITY — Republican businessman Dave Spence launched the first ads of Missouri's gubernatorial campaign Tuesday, introducing himself to prospective voters as a "job creator" who would be better suited than "career politicians" to help boost the state's economy.
The ads mark the first significant campaign expense by Spence, who put $2 million toward his race shortly after announcing last fall that he would seek to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in the 2012 elections.
As a first-time candidate, Spence is essentially starting from scratch in attempting to build the statewide name recognition that is necessary to run for governor. The only other Republican in the race, former Kansas City attorney Bill Randles, has just a few thousand dollars in his campaign account but has attended Republican events around the state for about a year.
Spence bought Alpha Packaging — a St. Louis company that makes plastic bottles for pharmaceuticals, vitamins and personal care products — in the mid-1980s and grew the company from 15 employees to about 800. He also has been chairman of Legacy Packaging, another pharmaceutical packaging firm.
His ads don't mention Nixon, an attorney who served as a state senator and attorney general for two decades before winning election as governor in 2008. But Spence's ads refer generically to "career politicians" who "worry about keeping their own jobs."
The minute-long radio ad includes the voices of several people praising Spence's work as a private-sector businessman. Both the radio and TV ads end with Spence declaring: "Missouri doesn't need more taxes, we need more jobs. And creating jobs is what I do."
Nixon also has stressed job creation. At a news conference Tuesday in rural Shelbyville, Nixon endorsed plans for a new oil pipeline across Missouri — in part, because he said it had the potential to create thousands of construction jobs.
''As governor, my top priority is to create jobs and grow Missouri's economy," Nixon said in a telephone conference call with reporters.
Nixon's campaign referred questions about Spence's ads to the Missouri Democratic Party, which used it as an occasion to revisit reports about Spence's prior role on the board of a bank that accepted a federal bailout and has had trouble repaying the money.
"Spence says in his ad that he's different, and he's right — it's certainly different to personally benefit from a bank bailout and then personally bankroll your campaign's political ads," said Missouri Democratic Party spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki.
Randles said he has been soliciting contributions for his campaign, without much to show for it so far. But he told The Associated Press last week that he's confident he can raise about $1 million, eventually air some TV ads and ultimately prevail in the August Republican primary. Randles said he is focused on building a grass-roots network of supporters and had attended about 180 events around the state during the past year.
"People get the vote out, not dollars," Randles said.