COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican challenger Dave Spence are squaring off in their first debate.

Economic development and the strength of Missouri's economy are likely to be key issues during the debate Friday 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.

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