The two top candidates for Missouri governor signed up to run in their party’s respective primaries on Tuesday, and spent their first moments as official candidates diverging on a ballot item to expand Medicaid.
Gov. Mike Parson and state Auditor Nicole Galloway’s entry into the 2020 gubernatorial contest came as scores of other congressional, statewide and legislative candidates traveled to Jefferson City to file for office.
Tuesday marked the beginning of a more than monthlong time period when candidates can sign up to run in the Aug. 4 primary. And many of them made the trek to Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office to file in the Republican, Democratic, Green, Libertarian or Constitution party primaries.
“Fighting for the people has been really important to me,” said state Rep. Holly Rehder, one of two Republican candidates who filed for a southeast Missouri-based Senate seat. “I really enjoy and think it’s so important to have a strong conservative fighting in the statehouse.”
As of 4 p.m., 333 candidates had signed up to run — including 236 state representatives, 27 congressional candidates and 15 judicial candidates. Filing continues through March 31.
Parson and Galloway on collision course
Parson and Galloway each filed in their respective primaries in the midmorning. Parson told reporters that he was hoping that his economic development and transportation policies would connect with voters as he seeks a full, four-year term.
“Right now, everything is looking extremely well in the state,” Parson said. “A lot of the policies we’ve been able to implement on the workforce development, the infrastructure, the education side of it. And really the pocketbook issues that affect everyday people here.”
In her remarks to reporters, Galloway criticized Parson for his management of the state’s Medicaid program — pointing to how scores of children have been removed from the program. “And he has no vision and no solution on how he’s going to fix that,” she said.
Galloway also expressed support for a ballot item that voters will likely decide on whether to expand Medicaid.
“And they are one emergency away from bankrupting themselves and for their families,” Galloway said. “We should not have to settle for this. I support Medicaid expansion so that working families can get the health care that they need.”
Parson reiterated his opposition to the Medicaid expansion proposal. He also said that if children qualify for Medicaid, then “we want them on Medicaid.”
Neither Parson nor Galloway drew big-name competition for their respective primaries on Tuesday. The deciding factor on who wins could be how the presidential race shakes out in Missouri. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump’s nearly 19-point victory helped sink a number of viable Democratic candidates, including gubernatorial hopeful Chris Koster.
When asked how she would fare if someone like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders gets the nomination, Galloway, who hasn’t endorsed anyone in the runup to the March 10 Democratic presidential primary, replied, “I am not going to predetermine what’s going to happen over the next several weeks.”
“I’m focused on my race here in Missouri and what’s going to actually get done for Missouri families,” Galloway said.
Parson said that Trump’s presence on the ballot would be a positive for him.
“I think when you look at the president’s numbers here, I think they’re going to do nothing but improve,” he said. “When you look at an Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, people like that don’t line up with Missouri values.”
Meanwhile, most of Missouri’s Republican statewide officeholders filed to run for four-year terms. That includes Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe. Ashcroft and state Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick have announced bids to keep their jobs.
A slate of Democratic candidates also filed to oppose these statewide officeholders. Greg Upchurch signed up to run against Kehoe, former state Rep. Vicki Englund filed to run against Fitzpatrick, and Yinka Faleti is running against Ashcroft. Two Democrats, Elad Gross and Rich Finneran, filed to run against Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
If Faleti upends Ashcroft, he would be the first African American to hold statewide office in Missouri history. “And everything that I learned at West Point and in the Army said when your country, when the people of your state need you — you stand up, and you stand up to defend them,” he said.
At least two state Senate contests in the St. Louis area will have competitive primaries. State Rep. Steve Roberts, St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Green, Bill Haas, Jeremiah Church and Michelle Sherod all filed in the Democratic primary for the 5th Senate District, which takes in part of the city of St. Louis. And state Rep. Tommie Pierson Jr., state Rep. Alan Green, and Angela Mosely filed to run in the St. Louis County-based 13th Senate District. Both of those districts are heavily Democratic, so the winner of the August primary will be positioned to go to the Senate.
State Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, filed against Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin. The race for the 2nd Congressional District is expected to be competitive, especially since the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has indicated that Schupp will get financial and organization support in the largely suburban district.
In the 1st Congressional District, Cori Bush once again signed up to run in the Democratic primary against Rep. Lacy Clay. Bush lost decisively in 2018 but said she is ready for a rematch with the University City congressman.
“You know, this time around, I know a lot more. We have a lot more support. We're better organized. We have more money to start,” said Bush, who added she’s hoping Sanders’ presidential campaign gives her a boost.
Asked about the prospect of a rematch with Bush, Clay said, “I expect the same results as last time.”
City and county races
Tuesday was also the first day of filing for local offices in St. Louis and St. Louis County.
The most high-profile contest in St. Louis County is St. Louis County Executive Sam Page’s bid to remain in office for two more years. He’ll have competition in the Democratic primary from St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman and Mark Mantovani. Paul Berry III filed to run as a Republican for the post.
In St. Louis, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is facing a challenge from Mary Pat Carl in the Democratic primary. And St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones will square off against Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, D-22nd Ward, in the Democratic primary for treasurer. St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts will take on Alfred Montgomery, Lester Stewart and John Castellano in the Democratic primary.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR
Send questions and comments about this story to email@example.com