Parson wins Missouri governor race against Galloway; GOP sweeps other statewide offices
Republican Gov. Mike Parson cruised to victory in his bid for a full, four-year term Tuesday, defeating Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway everywhere outside of Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia and St. Louis County.
As of 2 a.m. Wednesday, unofficial results showed Parson, a former Polk County sheriff, leading 57.2 percent-40.6 percent thanks to huge margins in rural areas and clear victories in Greene County and key suburbs.
In a speech at the White River Conference Center in Springfield, a jubilant Parson said Tuesday's election was about "preserving freedom, capitalism and the rule of law."
"However," he added, "there is more work to be done, and that work starts tomorrow ... I believe it is our time to preserve freedom for the next generation.”
Galloway spoke at the Tiger Hotel in Columbia shortly afterward and congratulated Parson on his victory.
She also thanked her supporters for their efforts this year and urged them to stay involved.
"While this campaign is over, our work continues," she said, noting that she herself has two more years left on her term as auditor. "We have to continue to organize, advocate and fight to ensure that our leaders put the needs of working families first and act with urgency to address the profound challenges this state faces."
Parson, 65, was favored in polling throughout the race, and began the campaign more than a year ago touting a “booming” economy and his efforts to improve it further.
Galloway, 38, appeared to make up ground as COVID-19 spread across the state and she criticized Parson for refusing to issue a statewide mask mandate even as public health officials and health care providers pleaded for one.
But after protests against police brutality descended into violence in June, Parson and his allies refocused the race on public safety and framed Galloway as a liberal looking to “defund” police.
Outside groups on both sides also spent millions of dollars on advertisements that took varying amounts of liberties with the truth to portray the other side’s candidate as a corrupt “insider” hellbent on abusing their office.
Ultimately, Parson’s victory means little will change in Jefferson City.
Parson will remain a reliable partner for the Republican majorities that control the legislature and will almost certainly continue the approach the state has taken with the pandemic.
Even with cases on the rise and hospital beds filling up, Parson has continued to resist calls for a mask mandate or any other restrictions and made clear he will not require people to get a vaccine when one is available.
If his 2 1/2 years in office since taking over for former Gov. Eric Greitens are any indication, Parson will also continue to focus on his favorite topics of “workforce development” and infrastructure.
In 2019, he pushed plans through the legislature to create a new scholarship program to help adults go back to school and use a federal grant and a $300 million loan to fix hundreds of bridges across the state.
But perhaps his biggest challenge next year will be implementing Medicaid expansion in a tough budget year, which voters approved in August despite his opposition.
The policy will offer public health insurance to hundreds of thousands more low-income adults and offer a boost to the state’s health care industry, but the cost to the state has not been fully determined.
Galloway had promised to implement it with no new taxes or spending cuts, citing research from Washington University in St. Louis saying expansion will actually save money by shifting certain costs to the federal government.
But in a debate Oct. 9, Parson said government programs don't work like that and suggested it’ll likely cost the state $200 million in the first year alone, a number other Republicans have said will be impossible to meet without cuts.
"But we’re going to put it in place," Parson said at the time, "and we’re just going to have to do that and balance the budget at the same time."
Republicans sweep other statewide offices
Parson will also return to work alongside the four other Republican statewide officeholders on the ballot Tuesday, all of whom won big against their Democratic opponents.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, the state's chief elections official, was the top vote-getter and led St. Louis nonprofit executive Yinka Faleti 60.5 percent-36.4 percent with nearly all votes counted around midnight.
Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who would take over for Parson if he were incapacitated, led former Kansas City Councilwoman Alissia Canady 58.3 percent to 38.9 percent around the same time.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the state's chief legal and law enforcement officer, also beat former federal prosecutor Rich Finneran 59.3 percent to 37.9 percent.
And State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick defeated former state Rep. Vicki Englund 59 percent-38.1 percent.
Notably, Kehoe, Schmitt and Fitzpatrick all won full, four-year terms in their positions for the first time since Parson originally appointed all of them in the shakeup after Gov. Eric Greitens' resignation and Josh Hawley's election to the U.S. Senate.
You can follow the results here:
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.