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Galloway Jumps In 2020 Gubernatorial Contest, Setting Up Likely Matchup Against Parson

Nicole Galloway poses for a portrait at St. Louis Public Radio. March, 22, 2018
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
State Auditor Nicole Galloway announced her 2020 bid for governor on Monday.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway officially launched her 2020 gubernatorial bid on Monday morning, emphasizing her record as Missouri’s lone Democratic statewide official and criticizing how a GOP-controlled government has operated.

While Galloway will likely have little competition capturing the Democratic nomination for governor, in the general election, she will be dealing with an electorate that leans toward the GOP and the incumbent's financial advantage.

Galloway’s announcement via a web video stressed her biography as a Fenton native and tenure as state auditor. She points out how her office uncovered government fraud and abuse and discovered misdeeds that sent public officials to jail.

She also criticized the GOP-controlled Legislature for passing a ban on most abortions at eight weeks of pregnancyand for trying to place a new state legislative redistricting system on the 2020 ballot after voters approved the measure along with other ethics overhauls in 2018.

“It’s a broken system, the old way of doing politics,” Galloway said. “As auditor, I’ve fought it. As governor, I’ll end it.”

Galloway’s entry into the gubernatorial contest is not a surprise. She changed her campaign committee last week to raise funds for a gubernatorial bid. And a political action committee aimed at supporting her, called Keep Government Accountable, has been raking in large donations over the past few weeks.

Galloway’s pathway to the nomination became a lot easier earlier this summer when a potential rival, state Sen. Scott Sifton of Affton, bowed out of the governor’s race. Other possible gubernatorial hopefuls, such as former Secretary of State Jason Kander, have ruled out 2020 campaigns.

“Nicole Galloway is the right person to lead the Democratic ticket in Missouri in 2020,” Sifton said last month. “I look forward to campaigning relentlessly to help get her elected.”

Jean Peters Baker, state Democratic Party chairwoman, tweeted on Monday that “the Democratic ticket in Missouri will be lead by a smart, capable, thoughtful woman.”

Mike Parson took over as governor in June 2018, after Gov. Eric Greitens’ resignation. He hasn’t officially announced he’s seeking a full, four-year term, but both his campaign committee and associated political action committee have been raising money for that possibility. And Parson’s former communications director, Steele Shippy, signed on to be campaign manager if the governor launches a 2020 campaign.

Shippy said in a statement that Parson "has a proven track record of reforming government and working hard to turn Missouri around—creating jobs, increasing wages, and delivering a better quality of life."

"Governor Parson and Missouri Republican leadership have not only paved the way for prosperity but also improved the lives of Missourians," Shippy said. "Missouri cannot afford Liberal Nicole's agenda which would turn back the clock on these successes. We look forward to sharing the Governor's record and vision with Missouri voters."

Shifting grounds

Galloway was first appointed to the state auditor’s office in 2015 after Tom Schweich’s death. She won a full term last year, defeating Republican Saundra McDowell by a little more than 6 percentage points.

But while the victory was the Democrats’ lone bright spot in 2018, it also showcased some of the party’s weaknesses. Even though McDowell was attacked for her past financial troubles and spent less money than candidates for St. Louis aldermen, she still won most rural and some suburban counties by sizable margins.

In the past several election cycles, Democratic candidates have performed increasingly poorly in places where the party dominated for decades — including northeast and southeast Missouri — and swing areas like Jefferson and Buchanan counties. During her re-election bid in 2018, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill failed to bind together a coalition of rural, suburban and urban voters that Democratic statewide candidates typically need to win.

After the latest fundraising quarter, Parson’s campaign committee and his allied PAC have significantly more money than Galloway’s committee and her associated PAC. Galloway may not be able to count on an influx of national money to fill in the gap — especially since there isn’t a U.S. Senate race to bring in tens of millions of dollars of outside money. And Missouri Democrats can’t count on the presidential race to bring in financial or organization help, especially given President Donald Trump's strength in the state.

“It’s up to us. We have to take care of our own house,” said Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, earlier this summer. 

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.