Republican Gov. Mike Parson won four more years at the helm Tuesday, fending off a challenge from Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway thanks to robust support in rural Missouri.
The Associated Press called the race around 9:40 p.m., when unofficial results showed Missourians backing the incumbent 58.7 percent-39.2 percent with a little more than half of votes counted and Parson running up the score outside the cities while holding firm in Greene County and key suburbs.
In a speech at Bass Pro Shops’ White River Conference Center, a jubilant Parson said Tuesday’s election was about “preserving freedom, capitalism and the rule of law” and that the work will continue tomorrow.
“I believe it’s our time to preserve the Constitution,” he told supporters. “I believe it’s our time to defend the American Dream, I believe it’s our time to preserve our freedoms for the next generation, and it’s our time to be governor for four more years.”
Shortly afterward, in a speech from the Tiger Hotel in Columbia, Galloway congratulated Parson on his victory, thanked her supporters for their efforts and urged them to keep fighting.
“While this campaign is over, our work continues,” she said, noting she is only halfway through 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, made 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 win other statewide offices
The favor Missouri voters showed for the Republicans at the top of the ticket carried down the ballot, as well, with GOP incumbents — most of whom were appointed in shuffling that followed Gov. Eric Greitens’ resignation and Josh Hawley’s election to the U.S. Senate — winning their races for other statewide offices. Each had garnered roughly 60 percent of the vote with about 84 percent of votes counted.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt won a full, four-year term against Democratic challenger Rich Finneran.
In the Lt. Governor’s race, Republican Mike Kehoe held off Democrat Alissia Canady.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft won his race against Democrat Yinka Faleti.
Finally, in the State Treasurer’s race, Republican incumbent Scott Fitzpatrick bested Democrat Vicki Lorenz Englund.
Follow the rest of 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.