Gubernatorial candidates spar over Covid-19, economy and health care
By Tyler Schneider
Republican Governor Mike Parson and Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway managed to trade some big blows to the other’s campaign in a mutual effort to diminish the other’s partisan platform during last Friday’s Gubernatorial Debate at the Missouri Theater in Columbia, MO.
The pair was joined onstage at the Missouri Press Association and KOMU-TV sponsored event by Green Party nominee Jerome Howard Bauer, Libertarian Party nominee Rik Combs and moderator David Lieb of the Associated Press. Parson and Galloway painted their visions of Missouri’s future alongside some contrasting — and occasionally complimentary — takes from both third-party representatives.
The quartet discussed such hot topics as Covid-19, crime, the economy and Medicare expansion in the 90-minute session that will almost assuredly be the only event of its kind in the Show Me State prior to election day on November 3rd. Originally scheduled to take place on September 25, the forum was moved to October 9 following Parson’s positive Covid-19 diagnosis on September 23. Missouri is one of 11 states contesting a gubernatorial race in 2020
Defending his two years in office following Eric Greitens’ resignation on June 1, 2018, Parson emphasized his collective experiences in the military, law enforcement and politics, as well as his background in farming and business.
“Those life skills are what qualify you to lead Missouri,” Parson said, setting the tone in his opening statement.
Galloway focused her biggest criticisms at Parson’s Covid-19 response and his opposition to statewide Medicare expansion.
“If he had answers, we would have seen them already,” Galloway said. “This summer, he was asked by a KOMU-TV reporter if he took responsibility [for his administration’s Covid-19 response] and he said no — he compared it to car crashes. What he’s been doing is not work, it isn’t working.”
“I never said that I wasn’t responsible. When you’re the governor of Missouri, you’re responsible for everybody.” Parson said in response. “I invite anybody to look at our work calendars and see who was really at work during the last seven months.”
Parson proceeded to defend his Covid-19 response as a measured, “balanced,” approach — and suggested several times that his decisions have helped shape the state’s economic recovery curve.
“We just opened up Chewy Pet Food for 1,200 jobs in Belton. As of last month, consumer spending was up six percent,” Parson said. “Again, this is a balanced approach. You gotta be able to deal with the virus, the economy and also opening schools back up.”
Parson, who served as Polk County sheriff from 1993 to 2005, went on the attack as he tried to link far-left policies, such as rapid defunding of police resources, to Galloway’s campaign.
“To be clear, I do not support defunding the police,” Galloway said, retaliating by continuing to back her standing accusation that Parson’s campaign has engaged in racially divisive practices.
“This year, on the eve of an election, he had a special session on law and order, and even the majority of his own party did not approve. The witness protection program has no funding. He struck out,” Galloway said.
Bauer, of the Green Party, gave a strong effort to elevate his party’s platform in supporting universal basic income (UBI), “Roosevelt Era” public works projects, police reform and Medicare expansion. Bauer, who is blind, offered a particularly engaging take on health care policy.
“Politicians should not be the ones at the podium when we’re talking about public health,” Bauer said. “Medicaid expansion is an improvement over what we have right now, but we can do even better. Health care is a human right.”
Meanwhile, Combs spent his speaking time touting a traditional Libertarian platform as a sort of alternative to Parson’s more centrist, modern Republican image.
Combs set that tone early by taking a hard stand during Covid-19 response discussions.
“I think that is not the government’s position or place to have people deemed ‘essential’ or ‘nonessential,’ Combs said, adding that he believes, “herd immunity would take control.”
He also stressed deregulation and increased focus on municipal-level decision making across the state.
“Make no mistake about it: The Middle Class is under assault. I am the champion of the middle class,” Combs said in his closing statement.