Mo. candidates for governor, senator to debate in Columbia

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican challenger Dave Spence squared off in their first debate Friday.

Economic development and the strength of Missouri's economy were key issues during the debate in Columbia.

Nixon, a Democrat, became governor in 2009 and is seeking a second four-year term after serving 16 years as attorney general.

Spence, of St. Louis, is a political newcomer. He stepped down last year as the president and CEO of Alpha Packaging.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Jim Higgins also is participating in the debate, which is being sponsored by the Missouri Press Association.

Following the candidates for governor, incumbent Democratic senator Claire McCaskill faced Republican challenger Todd Akin in a one-on-one debate at 10:45 a.m.