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Nixon collected last-minute barrage of bucks from unions

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 12, 2012 - In the final five days before the Nov. 6 election, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon – already the best-funded Democrat running for statewide office – added an additional $310,000 to his coffers from five labor unions.

The biggest donations – totaling $100,000 – came from the regional and national arms of the Laborers Union.

Nixon also collected $100,000 from the Service Employees International Union and $50,000 apiece from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and from the United Auto Workers. He received $10,000 from the Painters Union.

All of the donations came between Nov. 1 and Nov. 5. They represented the largest batch of outside donations received by any Missouri candidate in either party during the final week.

The labor contributions came as the governor and other Democratic statewide candidates were participated in rallies held at union offices in St. Louis and around the state. The labor gatherings were the largest Democratic rallies held during the final weeks of the campaigns.

However, the other Missouri statewide candidates collected only $10,000 apiece from unions during that last week – all from the Laborers Union.

All but one of the statewide Democrats won on Nov. 6, but most had much tighter races than the governor. (Attorney General Chris Koster was the exception, defeating rival Republican Ed Martin by about 15 percentage points.)

The bulk of the last-minute blitz of labor bucks to Nixon came right after his GOP rival, St. Louis businessman Dave Spence, put in another $600,000 on Oct. 31 into his own campaign. All told, Spence donated or lent $6.6 million of his own money to his unsuccessful bid for governor.

For labor, keeping Nixon in their corner is likely a priority since he has repeatedly declared that he would veto any right-to-work legislation approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

And Spence was clearly seen as a labor enemy, although the candidate had contended otherwise. Spence had made a point repeatedly in his campaign of emphasizing his support for a right-to-work law, which would have banned employers and unions from requiring that all workers pay dues if a majority vote to join a union.

All that labor money signals that the governor also may have influential union allies, should he decide to run for something else in 2016.

Spence also got a significant, although less sizable, last-minute donation from an interesting source. Fellow local businessman/multi-millionaire John Brunner -- who made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate but lost in the August primary -- gave Spence $10,250 on Nov. 2.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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