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Who is Spencer Toder?

Spencer Toder is a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri.
Credit: Spencer Toder campaign

ST. LOUIS — Spencer Toder is a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri. The primary is August 2. One Democrat will go on to face candidates of other parties in the general election in November.

Political newcomer Toder, a real estate broker and medical device company owner, has taken an unconventional path in the Democratic primary.

KNOW TO VOTE: Missouri primary 2022: Voter guide for St. Louis area

Instead of "dialing for dollars," or whipping up a frenzy in social media or digital ads to drive web traffic and donations, he’s courted Democratic primary voters by working alongside them in niche advocacy areas, attempting to earn their trust by working in the trenches with them. He promises to share 10% of his campaign donations to help build out the rest of the party structure. 

Beyond his efforts to signal loyalty to the party at large, he registered voters, raised money for Afghan refugees, helped people in poverty apply for Medicaid or expanded child tax credits, and organized petition drives to help wrongfully imprisoned people get out of jail. 

While public polling shows Toder faces an uphill climb to win the race, he argues his support lies in the grassroots and in specific corners of the liberal voter bloc that will come out and boost his campaign.

5 On Your Side candidate survey

To the extent any single member of Congress can influence the U.S. economy and labor market, what immediate steps would you take to reduce the cost of living burden Missourians face during this period of inflation?

Toder: So to fully understand what's causing inflation, it's important that we recognize that everything is tied back to the cost of gasoline. When you look at the cost of goods and services, there isn't anything that gets from here to there without being transported by some sort of a vehicle. And so the best thing that we can do is we could make sure that the corporate windfall tax is is passed against these oil companies to make sure that they no longer take advantage of us. And if you look at what happened, Democrats tried to pass this bill and every single Republican voted against it, which is what's leading to greater inflation. That would be the greatest thing we could do right now. 

Missouri state law prohibits women and girls from seeking abortion procedures at any time during their pregnancy, regardless of circumstances involving rape, incest, or other unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. Would you support a similar law at the federal level? If not, then which women or girls should be allowed access to safe, legal abortion procedures?

Toder: The government shouldn't have any idea what's going on when someone becomes pregnant. For starters, this is an invasion of privacy. I'm pro-choice. I'm endorsed by pro-choice Missouri. I feel strongly that the government is the last thing that I would ever want telling someone in my life whether or not they should carry a pregnancy to term, particularly when it is a health care decision. Abortion is health care. And so I am fully in favor of legalizing abortion nationwide and ensuring that not only do we codify Roe in regards to abortion, but that our right to privacy is preserved.

What specific policies or practices would you support from Congress that could directly improve safety and reduce violent crime in Missouri? 

Toder: So there's a lot of discussion about defunding the police, and this is a really dangerous way of talking about things, in my opinion, because we don't look at public safety holistically enough when you recognize that the vast majority of crime is committed in communities that have experienced extreme divestment, where there aren't quality, there isn't quality education, there isn't quality health care, there aren't there is no access to good paying jobs at the same level as in other parts of our communities. We recognize that policing is a very reactive way of dealing with crime. But to be proactive, we need to be investing in our community.

What do you perceive as the single greatest threat to American democracy and how would you address it in Congress?

Toder: There is no greater threat to our country right now than the fact that we are losing our democracy. We have a government that is controlled by extremists in enough of a force that they are trying to strip us of our voting rights and unless every voice in this country is heard unless every person gets the representation that they deserve. It's impossible to have a democracy. So gerrymandering, voter suppression, these are things that are very real. And we see them at the local level where they're passing laws, where state I.D.s are necessary so college students can no longer use college I.D.s to vote or even the registration cards that come in going forward in the future after mid August. These are real problems. 

And so if we're going to have a democracy that actually represents us, we need to make sure that we get rid of gerrymandering. That means we have to abolish the filibuster. We need to draw lines in our country, in our states, so that they breed competition, because competition is what breeds actual debate and elevates our ability to have discourse. That puts us first. And that's not currently what's happening. 

There's no accountability for politicians who pass laws that work against us. They're guaranteed that they will continue to be reelected because their districts look like this. I say this often. Jim Jordan in Ohio's district looks like a duck. And the only person who can win in a district looks like a duck is someone who quacks. And so if you think about it, whether it's Jim Jordan or whoever replaces him, it breeds extremism because that person can't lose that seat.

To what extent do fossil fuels contribute to the changing climate? To what extent should Congressional action attempt to alter that trajectory?

Toder: For starters, I'm a conservationist. I've put over 40 acres in Missouri and native wildflowers. I do controlled burns. I've spent a lot of my time as a beekeeper, as a side hobby, and I also have invested heavily in renewable energy corporations throughout our state to try to ensure that we are building jobs here. We are creating an industry here that stimulates our economy while also recognizing that we need to decarbonize our planet. So fossil fuels, we know, are the leading, leading cause of global warming. They are the leading cause of global climate change. And it is human-made. And this is our action that's taking place. 

So at a national level, we need to think big and we need to realize that this isn't something that's reactive and something that is going to mean that we're going to have to suffer and things are going to cost more money. Think about right now, the cost of oil is going up because of a war in Russia. That has very little to do with us when it's a decision between Russia imposing its its will on Ukraine. But the son doesn't go to war. When doesn't go to war, water doesn't go to war. 

And so by creating thousands of good-paying jobs here in Missouri, we can actually become energy independent and ensure that we're building those jobs here. Now, additionally, it's important to notice that we don't have technology to ship renewable energy overseas. 

So some of my competitors have said things like, 'Oh, we can be net energy exporters to Europe and that'll get them off foreign oil.' But that doesn't make sense. Economically speaking, from a supply chain perspective, renewable energy is stored in batteries and there's no good way to ship batteries overseas. Right now, oil is able to come back and forth because it comes there tubes underneath the ocean. But it's important that we have reasonable economic platforms that makes business sense. And right now, I'm the only candidate supporting actual concrete change that can do that.

Public polling shows most Americans believe the U.S. Supreme Court has become too political. What reforms, if any, should Congress take to reshape or reimagine the makeup or behavior of the court?

Toder: First thing we need to recognize is that the court has changed in size in the past. Mitch McConnell unilaterally made it an eight-person court while he determined whether or not he wanted to allow the next justice to be seated. Then we need to recognize that the vast majority of the nine justices on the court have been put in place by presidents who did not win the popular vote.

Finally, we need to recognize that there are people on the Supreme Court who lied under oath as to what the law of the land meant about Roe. They lied. They perjured themselves. And so there need to be investigations and discussions about whether or not they should be impeached. And there is precedent for justices being impeached in the past, not the Supreme Court level, but federal justices. 

We then need to expand the Supreme Court because the Supreme Court right now is determining how many cases it wants to hear and which cases it wants to hear. It does not represent the values or the interest of our country. If we expand the court to the point where we have the ability to hear more and more cases, we can actually make progress. Right now, there are very few people who have been alive in the same amount of years that I've been alive that actually feel like anything has changed for the better and everything has been stalled. 

And we have a court that's currently legislating from the bench, which is not healthy. We need the ability for our legislators to make and pass laws and then the courts to determine whether or not those are constitutional. But when they're throwing us back, where they're removing rights that have been the law of the land for over 50 years, when they told us they would never do that, they are not acting in our interest and they need to be held accountable as well. 

Which Constitutional amendment is your favorite and why?

Toder: Oh, my gosh. Well, freedom of speech is absolutely the most important thing that could possibly exist. And so any any time that we discuss what we're going to do going forward, it has to be our voices being heard. My campaign has been focused on centering the voices of Americans. And so I think the First Amendment is absolutely essential in everything we believe in and everything that we can trust. 

What is your favorite movie, most influential book, and go-to genre of music?

Toder: My favorite movie of all time is Animal House. My dad played it for me when I was in fourth grade and he said, I think you might actually be old enough for this. He was probably wrong, but we all have those moments with our fathers where we feel a deep attachment when they entrust you with something. And for me, that kind of set the precedent. It was also when I met my wife, when I asked her her favorite movie, she said it was Animal House. And I said, 'Oh my God, I need to kiss you'. And that was our first kiss. So it holds a special place in my heart, regardless of the fraternity mentality of of all of it, and how politically incorrect it likely is. 

My favorite book of all time is probably Where the Redfern Grows. I also love history, and so I've read quite a bit about, you know, the rise of autocracies have been a big focus of mine recently and there are quite a few books that I would recommend in those regards. I think Sarah Kendziors' series both Flyover Country, as well as her more recent book on Donald Trump were absolutely, incredibly impactful for our society. But Where the Redford Grows is number one for me. 

I primarily listen to old school hip hop and the country music country from the nineties and 2000 is nothing new. Although I'm really into Taylor Swift right now, more of her poppy stuff and less of her country stuff. But ultimately, my ideal concerts are Brad Paisley, Counting Crows and Tupac. If we could ever get them back.

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