Mike Parson Wins First Full Term As Missouri Governor
Republican Gov. Mike Parson defeated State Auditor Nicole Galloway on Tuesday to win a full term as Missouri’s chief executive.
Parson led a Republican sweep of statewide offices as Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick all kept their positions. An amendment to put term limits on those positions failed.
As Parson often stressed on the campaign trail, he reiterated this was a critical election for the state in his victory speech on Tuesday.
“This election was about preserving freedom, capitalism and the rule of law,” Parson said. “There is more work to be done, and that work starts tomorrow, as the next term for governor.”
The race turned out to be tougher than expected for the Republican incumbent after his approval ratings dipped due to his response to the coronavirus pandemic. Parson was one of the last governors to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, which still allowed most businesses to stay open, and refused to mandate masks. He said that decision should be left up to local governments.
“I’ve been pretty open about that the entire time, how diverse our state was, and it’s going to be affected at different times, and that’s why I think it’s important to leave it up to locals,” he said in an interview for Politically Speaking.
Galloway, the only woman and Democrat holding statewide office, centered her campaign around what she and other Democrats described as a weak response to the coronavirus. Though the strategy didn’t prove strong enough to capture the votes needed to secure the state’s top position, in her concession speech, Galloway talked about the movement her campaign created.
“Over the course of this campaign, we built a coalition of Missourians that were united around a few simple values,” Galloway said, “that we can no longer ignore science and the growing threat of COVID-19.”
Parson was able to point to signs of economic recovery throughout the state. Last month, Missouri was ranked 12th in the nation for job recovery, and consumer spending reached pre-virus levels in August.
In his victory speech, Parson didn’t mention the coronavirus. But he did reiterate his hands-off approach that he’s been pushing since the start of the pandemic.
“I believe people believe in common sense,” Parson said. “And I think they want leaders who believe in common sense. They don’t want government to tell them what to do every day. They want to live their lives in peace, and as long as I’m governor we’re going to do those things.”
On top of the coronavirus, Parson’s tenure has seen a rise in violent crime, especially in St. Louis and Kansas City, and protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. The former sheriff has tried to implement more tough-on-crime policies and has been a strong supporter of law enforcement. However, he recently said that police reform is needed.
“If you kill somebody because of what action you took or you didn’t do everything you could to protect somebody, then you ought to be held accountable. I think you’re going to see those policies change, and the one thing I do have is that experience to know what makes a difference.”
Parson also recognized systemic racism is present in Missouri, specifically economic and educational disparities. He said dismantling those issues starts with getting children a good education.
“What we’ve got to do is what I’ve started in the first place,” Parson said. “We’ve got to do something with early childhood development, and you’ve got to get that kid an education. You’ve got to get that kid in the classroom, and then you’ve got to get them some sort of job training.
“I know this, if you keep doing from decade to decade what we’ve been doing, we’re going to deal with it another decade from now, if you don’t change it.”
In a sprint to the finish line in one of the most competitive gubernatorial races in the country, Parson, 65, highlighted making 40 campaign stops in the last eight days.
“That work ethic I learned on the farm from my mom and dad,” Parson said. “How to be a good neighbor. How to respect all people no matter where they live, no matter where they was from, no matter what their skin color was. You respected people.”
Parson said it’s his “Christian values” that helped him earn four more years. The Bolivar native was elected lieutenant governor in 2016, and he also served in the Missouri House and Senate. His win ensures Republicans remain in control of the governor’s mansion and the House and Senate with a veto-proof majority.
All Republican incumbents held on to their statewide seats.
Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe beat Alissia Canady for the state’s second in command. Attorney General Eric Schmitt defeated Rich Finneran. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft beat Yinka Faleti. Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick defeated Vicki Englund.
Incumbent Republican Andrew Koenig defeated Democratic challenger Deb Lavender for the 15th Senate District, which includes portions of south central and southwest St. Louis County, such as Kirkwood, Ballwin, Manchester, Twin Oaks and Valley Park.
The district has remained under Republican control for the past two decades. Prior to Koenig taking over the seat, Schmitt represented the district.
Koenig was a representative in the House from 2009 to 2016. He campaigned for this cycle on being anti-abortion and eliminating government waste.
Lavender, who will remain a state representative until January, released a statement on Twitter after her defeat. It read, in part: “We worked hard to flip a seat and it just wasn’t ready to be flipped yet. And you all made a difference in the lives you touched and the conversations you had.”
This was one seat Democrats were hopeful they could flip in order for Republicans to lose their supermajority hold on the upper chamber.
Democrat Doug Beck, who has been a member of the House since 2017, defeated Republican David Lenihan to fill Sen. Scott Sifton’s District 1 seat, which takes in parts of unincorporated south St. Louis County, Crestwood, Maplewood and Webster Groves.
Democrats expected a win with Beck, since Sifton was term-limited from running again. Beck campaigned on expanding Medicaid and prioritizing education funding.
Reporter Jonathan Ahl contributed to this report.
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