Gov. Parson Survives COVID-19 Bumbling to Beat Nicole Galloway

click to enlarge Gov. Mike Parson and Auditor Nicole Galloway. - TOM HELLAUER/DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Gov. Mike Parson and Auditor Nicole Galloway.

With the coronavirus surging, deaths climbing across the state and more businesses failing every week, Missourians have voted for ... the guy overseeing it all.

Gov. Mike Parson beat state Auditor Nicole Galloway in one of the few seriously contested governor's races in the country.

The ex-Polk County sheriff had taken over mid-term for disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens and was soon tested with a pandemic that bundled an economic crisis and a health crisis into one flaming ball of disaster. He responded to the challenge by handing off big decisions, most notably whether to mandate masks, to the cities and counties. He persisted even as the White House warned Missouri was turning into one of the country's COVID-19 danger zones and badly needed a statewide order on masks.

Galloway hammered on Parson's handling of the coronavirus, but the governor countered with a campaign focused on "law and order." Reluctant to step in on what he saw as local matters when it came to masks, Parson enthusiastically inserted himself into St. Louis' crime woes, digging down to a nearly unheard-of level by promising to pardon Mark and Patricia McCloskey should they be convicted of criminal charges for pulling guns on nonviolent protesters who marched past their Central West End mansion this summer.

Additionally, he proposed stripping St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner of fundamental responsibilities in murder cases — a move the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys called "historic overreach" and "simply bad for taxpayers and bad public policy."

But it played just fine as a rural vs. urban campaign strategy. Galloway won big in the major cities — she got 80 percent of the vote in St. Louis, according to unofficial results — but Parson's hands-off policies on masks and fear-stoking micromanaging on St. Louis prosecutions seemed to help him roll in outstate.

Missouri has now recorded more than 3,100 coronavirus deaths and is nearing 200,000 total cases since March. Rural communities, largely spared in the early days of the pandemic, are now struggling to find beds in distant hospitals for COVID-19 patients as the virus speeds through small towns and sprawling counties.

With the pandemic unlikely to disappear any time soon, Parson will now have plenty of time to handle it.
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