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Spencer Toder wants to abolish the filibuster to preserve abortion rights

Democrat Spencer Toder is one of 11 Democratic contenders for the U.S. Senate.
Jason Rosenbaum
St. Louis Public Radio
Democrat Spencer Toder is one of 11 Democratic contenders for the U.S. Senate.

Businessman and St. Louis County resident Spencer Toder said he was driven to run for the U.S. Senate because he felt “there wasn’t a candidate in the race who was willing to do the hard work to get in front of people and make people’s lives better.”

“I decided it was the right time,” Toder said during a recent episode of Politically Speaking. “And after quite a bit of discussion, we decided that the best thing we could do to improve the quality of life for Missourians was for me to become the next U.S. Senator.”

Toder spent a number of years in the business world, including playing a part in helping the CORTEX district in St. Louis grow into an emerging tech hub.

He is one of 11 Democrats who are running to succeed U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, who is not seeking a third term. But only three candidates have either raised or given loaned themself significant amounts of money for the race — Trudy Busch Valentine, Lucas Kunce and Toder.

When asked what set him apart from the other major candidates, Toder replied that his campaign was based on “action.” He pointed to his effort to raise tens of thousands of dollars for Afghan refugees — and successfully signing up people to the state’s Medicaid program and the federal child tax credit.

“Everything we focus on in our campaign is about making the lives of Missourians better now rather than waiting until I’m in the U.S. Senate,” Toder said.

Kunce has gained attention through his impressive fundraising numbers, while Valentine, the daughter of former Anheuser Busch executive Gussie Busch, likely has the wherewithal to self fund her campaign. Toder has raised more than $430,000 for his campaign, a tally that includes his own money.

Toder said if “money was the only thing that mattered in politics, we’d be talking to President Bloomberg and Amy McGrath as our senator from Kentucky.”

Toder was referring to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money on his presidential bid, and McGrath, who raised millions of dollars in a fruitless campaign against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“And it’s important that we recognize that the most important thing: Are you electable and can you find a way to relate to voters and earn their trust?” Toder said. “So everything that I’ve focused on is earning trust.”

Supportive of Ukraine assistance

Toder is a strong supporter of the United States providing support to Ukraine as it tries to fight back against an invasion from Russia.

He also said he would have voted for a $40 billion aid package that passed through Congress for, among other things, military and humanitarian relief.

“I think protection of democracy as a whole is a national security issue,” Toder said. “And Russia has been at war with America for 10 years, but we haven’t seen it in the same way — because it’s been largely technological and digital. And it’s incredibly important that not only do we have politicians and leaders in office who understand that level of technology, which I can promise you I do, but we’re also making sure that our allies have the resources necessary.”

While some on the left and the right have argued that spending time and money toward Ukraine’s defense is a distraction from domestic issues, Toder doesn’t find that contention particularly compelling.

“We need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Toder said. “And so if we can’t take on responsibility for managing issues like that, as well as the epidemic of gun violence and anything else that’s happened in the country, then we don’t deserve to lead.”

Backs restrictions on guns

After a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats such as Toder are pushing Republicans to back more stringent restrictions on guns.

Toder said it’s important to recognize when the 2nd Amendment was written, “it didn’t apply to assault rifles and it didn’t apply to weapons of war — it applied to a well regulated militia, which is not the people we’re talking about right now.”

“We’ve made it incredibly easy for people to access military grade weapons,” Toder said. “And they’re using it to literally kill our children. So we need to decide what our values are. Are our values that people should be able to have unfettered access to assault rifles — or that our children should be protected at schools?”

“To me, the answer’s easy,” he added.

Toder supports a “full ban on assault rifles and high capacity magazines,” adding that he would like to start a buyback program. He’s also supportive of so-called “red flag laws,” which set up a legal process to take away guns from people who are a danger to themselves or others.

“And you see what happens: Eighteen year olds are buying guns and going to shoot up schools the same day,” Toder said. “We can protect against that — and we know how. And we also know that the more guns on the street, the cheaper it is for people to buy guns second hand. So we need to limit the impact of that by making sure the only people who have access to guns are people who have taken classes to make sure they’re safely handling those guns.”

Supportive of abortion rights

Toder also expressed strong support of abortion rights, an issue that’s becoming more prominent with the possibility of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

If that happens, Missouri would ban most abortions with the exception of medical emergencies. There is exception in the state’s so-called “trigger law” for people who become pregnant because of rape or incest.

Toder supports codifying Roe v. Wade in statute, which would make abortion legal in every state. He said the only way to do that is to do away with the filibuster, especially since that parliamentary maneuver prevents bills from passing without support from at least 60 senators.

“The right to choose is the right to choose,” Toder said. “And as a man, it is not my role to tell someone what they can or can’t do. And it really is about privacy to me.”

Closing racial gaps

Toder said that he would be “passionate” about expanding voting rights if he’s elected to the U.S. Senate. He said the current situation makes it less likely for Black candidates to obtain tangible political power in Congress.

“So when we get to the Senate and we check the box to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act, we’re going to make it more likely that Black people can get elected and they have their voice heard and they have full representation,” Toder said. “That’s something I’m deeply committed to.”

He also said that he wants to make overhauling the criminal justice system a major priority as a legislator, adding that “he’s seen discrimination firsthand that Black people in this state and this country are facing.” Toder pointed to higher rates of maternal mortality among Black people compared to white people — and how Black people have longer incarceration rates in prison.

“If you look at the number of Black people who can’t vote currently because of arrest records, it’s really unfair,” Toder said. “And we need to make sure that everyone has agency and the ability to have their voices heard. And that means that everybody should have the ability to vote.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

Follow Spencer Toder on Twitter: @SpencerToder 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.