Tour of Missouri an issue in MO's Lt Governor debates

In recent debates among candidates for Lieutenant Governor in Missouri (between incumbent Peter Kinder, who has championed the Tour of Missouri for the past three years and touts it as one of the main successes of his term in the Lieutenant Governor's role as leader of the state division of tourism, challenger Sam Page, and two minor party challengers), the Tour of Missouri has been an issue.

Missouri Digital News sums up one of those debates this way:
"As chairman of the Missouri Tourism Commission, what would you do as lieutenant governor to bring dollars and tourism dollars to the state?"

Sam Page answered first. He said that tourism, as an "economic engine" second only to agriculture in the state, "The tourism commission is one of the most important jobs the lieutenant governor has." He said he was looking forward to seeing the economic effects of last week's Tour of Missouri, a seven-day cycling event from St. Joseph to St. Louis that featured approximately 120 riders and thousands of onlookers. Page said, "I've heard some criticisms from conservative groups that in a down economy, this is not the best use of job-creation money, but I'll have to wait and learn more about this."

Current Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder began by saying that under his watch the Missouri tourism industry has flourished to the largest budget ever in the state â014 more than $20 million in 2007. The Republican, who has been a vocal advocate for the Tour of Missouri while in office, said the event has been "enourmously positive departure in the tourism-hospitality industry." He added that with around 368,000 spectators it is the "largest sporting event ever held in our state."

"We have live, streaming video on the World Wide Web, and we've have hits from 100 countries around the world, the first four days of this race this week alone," Kinder said. "That means a worldwide audience is learning about Missouri's brand, and we're rebranding ourselves to a worldwide audience in Sweden, in China, in France, who may never have heard of Missouri â014 or maybe they've only heard of Mark Twain and the Mississippi River. Now they're seeing our beautiful Ozark highways and byways, our small towns, and we're uniting our small towns and two big cities in a world-class sporting event."