Candidates for Missouri treasurer bring different experiences, ideologies to campaign

Sunday, October 28, 2012 | 5:08 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — After his first term as the youngest Missouri state treasurer in more than a century, Democrat Clint Zweifel faces challenges from two opponents, Republican Cole McNary and Libertarian Sean O’Toole. The treasurer manages the state’s revenue and oversees unclaimed property.

Clint Zweifel

Throughout his re-election campaign, Zweifel has emphasized ways he says his office has improved in returning unclaimed property. Before he took office returning property took an average of 50 days. By putting in place an online outlet to claim property, that process now takes 18 days, Zweifel said. Fifty percent of claim cases are now pursued through that website, he said. 

“Those are simple things that when you’re interacting with Missourians on a day-to-day basis, you can show competence and understand the limits of government,” Zweifel said. “The government can’t get everything done, but the basic things that we have to get done should be done with excellence." 

Zweifel’s office also manages the Missouri Linked Deposit Program, which provides low-interest loans in partnership with lending institutions. 

College planning is important to Zweifel. Because his mother was a hairdresser and his father was a union carpenter, they were unable to save enough money to help put him through college. By earning scholarships, working part time and living at home, Zweifel was able to earn his bachelor's degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

While campaigning for student government there, Zweifel met his wife of 15 years, Janice Zweifel. They spend much of their weekend time attending their daughter’s swim meets throughout the Midwest. They also bicycle as a family.

Zweifel's daughters Selma, 14, and Ellie, 12, are both enrolled in the MOST 529 college savings plan, which is managed by the treasurer’s office and allows families to save for college with tax benefits and matching grant programs.  

Zweifel said he's found ways to serve Missouri residents without creating more government programs.

“We’ve been able to get things done in an environment where a lot of people just point fingers at each other," Zweifel said. "I’m really proud of that."

Cole McNary

Over the years, Cole McNary has pursued several career paths, including aviation management, business and teaching. He's worked for Saber Liner, Monsanto and Enterprise after completing degrees at Auburn University and St. Louis University. 

McNary met his wife, Christy, in Springfield while working on one of his father's political campaigns.

McNary encouraged his three children to take art and music lessons. His daughters, Shannon and Courtney, are now in art school. 

"They were never scared to start — never afraid to do something," McNary said. 

His youngest son, Mitch, attends Parkway Central High School and is an aspiring drummer. McNary and his brothers also took music lessons as a child, and his mother played in a philharmonic.

McNary's family is well-versed in politics. His father, Gene McNary, served as the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission and St. Louis county executive.  

McNary's brother aided in McNary's 2008 race by paring down campaign staff, and his mother contributed money and campaigned door to door in Chesterfield. 

In 2008, McNary won his seat in the Missouri House representing District 86, which includes Chesterfield. Right away, he made downsizing government his first priority. McNary founded the Downsizing State Government Committee in 2008, which he originally proposed be called "The Office of Repeal." McNary takes great pride in the committee.

As part of that, McNary requested a sunset, or legal expiration date, on every Missouri law. The idea is based on a Texas model. Its basic premise is that laws be reviewed every six years and that those that are outdated be eliminated. The House speaker refused McNary's request.

Next, McNary drafted a bill that eliminated 300 laws addressing topics he deemed unnecessary, McNary said. The bill passed by two votes, he said.

The measure saved about $2 million by eliminating printed statutes and the Blue Book produced by the secretary of state’s office. McNary felt legislators were abusing the privilege of receiving Blue Books by giving them away to their constituents at taxpayers' expense.

“In effect, it’s all about having better, more efficient government," McNary said. "What I would argue is that we are dipping our toe into an ocean of work yet to be done."

McNary said he questions whether all the current functions of the treasurer's office are necessary. Once elected, he would examine this further.

McNary has also called for further transparency in state finances, including pension obligations, which he believes should be thoroughly examined.

Sean O'Toole

Each week, Sean O'Toole flies to his job as an independent trader in Chicago on commercial airliners, even though he has a pilot's license and co-owns two planes. 

O'Toole has been a member of the Libertarian Party for a decade. In 2010, he ran unsuccessfully for state representative in what was then the 40th District. But that hasn't slowed him down.

“I like talking to people about Libertarian philosophy,” O’Toole said.

After swimming competitively in college, physical fitness became a priority in O'Toole's life. Jonathan Dine, the Libertarian candidate for the Missouri U.S. Senate seat, has been his personal trainer for the last year and a half.

Cisse Spragins is O'Toole's wife of 12 years and the Libertarian candidate for Missouri secretary of state. Scragins owns Rockwell Labs Ltd., a manufacturing plant that produces pest control products. She often asks her husband to use his self-taught welding skills to help with repairs around the plant. 

He spends many weekends rehabbing the 100-year-old home he shares with his wife in the historic Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood in Kansas City. 

O'Toole, who serves as the treasurer of the Missouri Libertarian Party and of his neighborhood association, said Democrats believe it takes a village, but Libertarians believe it takes an individual. 

O’Toole said he has a personal understanding of finances. He has experience in trading futures.

If elected, O’Toole would align his office goals with the Libertarian views of reducing government and taxes and allowing citizens to regulate their own lives, including an end to drug laws.

“Freedom is paid for with responsibility,” O’Toole said.

O'Toole said he would reduce the size of government, including programs such as the Missouri Linked Deposit Program.

He would not make changes to the MOST 529 college savings plan, however, because it is federally funded. 

Believing his odds of winning are slim, O’Toole wants to educate the public about an option outside the two dominant political parties.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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