Swinger, Libla present contrasting points of view in 25th

Friday, November 2, 2012

EDITOR'S NOTE: The counties in the district have been corrected.

If you've watched much TV lately, chances are you've noticed advertisements in the Missouri Senate race that pits 162nd District Rep. Terry Swinger, a Democrat from Caruthersville, Mo., against Poplar Bluff, Mo., businessman Doug Libla taking up noticeable commercial time.

The attack ads -- or as Libla refers to them, "contrast" ads -- have been accusatory, but both candidates, through recent interviews, reveal softer sides of themselves as Election Day nears in the 25th district.

For Swinger, a run for the Missouri Senate has been about eight years in the making, but that was time the well-known optometrist, who calls himself a conservative, didn't spend sitting on his heels. Votes he missed in the House, he said, were when he was at home, dealing with natural disasters that have plagued the district throughout the nine years he's served -- a devastating tornado that wiped out half of Caruthersville and flattened the city's high school in 2005, a catastrophic ice storm during 2009, and finally, widespread flooding last year, which all kept him working at home with his constituents, although the subject of an ad by Libla chides him for missing too much time in the House.

"My main thing I try to get across to people is that I am there to help them," Swinger said. "I've got to be there to do that."

In Southeast Missouri's perhaps most-watched for the state legislature, Swinger is trying to cast his net over a wider geographical area than ever.

Libla wants to apply learned business principles and staunch conservative values to support for education through local private groups like the Boys and Girls Club and to make Missouri a right-to-work state. A more business-friendly environment is needed now more than ever, he said.

"We need more people in the state legislature who have experience in business," Libla said Wednesday. "I was a business owner for 41 years, and I get it. I know what to do to create jobs. I'm the one guy who actually has done that."

Large contributions to Libla's campaign from a Republican Missouri Senate campaign committee -- totaling $57,000 just in the last 30 days -- are evidence that his experience as a businessman and potential as a senator are recognized, he said. Libla was the co-owner of Mid Continent Nail Corporation until his retirement earlier this year, when he sold his share of the company. He touts community involvement as a plus to his candicacy, saying he is a "big supporter" of organizations he has seen make an impact on local schoolchildren and families such as the Boys and Girls Club of Poplar Bluff.

That doesn't, however, sway the opinion of Don Smith, a Caruthersville business owner supporting Swinger.

"I think he is by far the better candidate," Smith said of Swinger. "I just like all he does for our area, and the particular views he espouses. He's always involved in different aspects of the community around here, like supporting local police and fire, and veterans."

Swinger said his ability to connect one-on-one with people, as well as his tendency to vote the same as Republicans in the House because he feels those votes often best represent the views of his constituents, give him an upper hand on Libla.

"We have our values down here in Southeast Missouri, and that's what my votes are all about," Swinger said.

He's endorsed by Missouri Right to Life, has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association and the support of the Missouri Farm Bureau. Libla, too, claims to be "pro-life and pro-gun." The Republican candidate also has the support of many Poplar Bluff businesspeople and farmers.

If money matters, then the contest for the district, which covers Butler, Carter, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Shannon and Stoddard

Map of pertinent addresses

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: