Missouri’s First District Debate: The Business Angle

Happier times: Carnahan (third from left) and Clay (second from right) together at the Route 66 Festival in 2008, before they were opponents. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Monday morning brought a bright-and-early showdown between Russ Carnahan and William “Lacy” Clay, Jr., the Democratic candidates for the 1st District seat in Congress. Both men are incumbents of sorts; Carnahan’s 3rd District position will disappear at the end of his term due to redistricting, while Clay is the current 1st District representative. With the First District, spanning St. Louis from center city west to Chesterfield and St. Charles and north of Highway 40, on the line, Carnahan and Clay verbally sparred on a wide range of topics in what appears likely to be their only debate of the season before the August 7 Democratic primary. Here’s how the candidates handled business-related topics. What will it mean for your business?

On the Rent-To-Own Industry

A lot of time was spent on the topic of rent-to-own, particularly House Resolution 1588, altering the Consumer Credit Protection Act to improve disclosure in the terms of rental-purchase agreements. Carnahan took a stance against HR 1588, saying it provides “too many loopholes for disclosure” in an industry both men agreed was full of “predators.”  Clay, on the other hand, favored the resolution, saying the bill “establishes standards so that [rent-to-own] transactions are clear and concise.” The rent-to-own subject has triggered heated exchanges between the two candidates throughout the campaign, including Carnahan accusing Clay of taking campaign donations from rent-to-own companies. Clay re-emphasized during yesterday’s debate that he never sided with rent-to-own companies or the payday loan industry, which he has been careful to differentiate in the past while accusing Carnahan of grouping them together.

On Jobs in the 1st District

As with political campaigns at every level of American government this year, the topic of jobs was an important talking point between Clay and Carnahan during their debate. Clay threw his job-creating weight behind the expansive 550-acre North Park development of business offices next to Lambert Airport. According to North Park’s published statistics, the office center hosts 11 businesses already—including Express Scripts, which Clay mentioned by name—and has created more than 5,000 jobs. Clay also mentioned his support of Emerald Automotive’s assembly plant opening in Hazelwood and its corresponding 400 new positions as proof of his job-creating cred.

Carnahan, the newcomer to the district, emphasized a desire to create jobs through improvement of transportation infrastructure such as bridges, highways and river facilities. He also pushed for more job fairs specifically for returning military veterans and leadership in green building initiatives while pointing to Missouri’s ranking of sixth on CNNMoney’s list of 10 Most Entrepreneurial States as evidence of a foundation to build upon.

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