Election Day: Missouri governor, redistricting among high stakes choices on the ballot
White and pink buds on dogwood and tulip trees brighten the Missouri State Capitol grounds in Jefferson City (Getty Images).
There’s a lot at stake as Missourians head to the polls today.
Who will be the state’s governor for the next four years? Will the historically GOP-friendly suburbs turn blue? How should districts be drawn for the next decade of state legislative races?
With unprecedented early voting, experts are predicting huge turnout.
So what’s on the ballot?
Republican Mike Parson, 65, is hoping voters give him a full four-year term after he took over the job in June 2018 following the resignation of Eric Greitens.
Parson was elected lieutenant governor in 2016, following 12 years in the state legislature and 11 as an elected county sheriff.
Democrat Nicole Galloway, 38, was also appointed to her current position of state auditor in 2015, though she won a full term of her own in 2018. She’s a certified public accountant from Columbia.
Both candidates have worked to frame the race in their own terms, with Parson hoping voters respond to his law and order message and Galloway hammering the governor’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
One thing going in Galloway’s favor is President Donald Trump’s coattails are nowhere near as long as they were in 2016 when he won the state by 19 percentage points. And even that year, Republicans only won the governor’s race by 6 points and a U.S. Senate race by 3 points.
But Parson recently told St. Louis Public Radio he’s polling better than the president.
Both candidates have been bolstered by huge spending — more than $40 million by the candidates and outside groups working on their behalf.
Like Parson, Republican Mike Kehoe, 58, is running as the incumbent even though voters didn’t choose him in 2016.
Kehoe was appointed lieutenant governor when Parson vacated the office to become governor. Before that he served two terms as a state senator from Jefferson City.
He’s running against Democrat Alissia Canady 41, a former city council member in Kansas City.
The job they’re seeking involves sitting on a variety of state boards, as well as presiding over the state Senate and casting tie breaking votes when needed. And as Missouri learned in 2016, the lieutenant governor takes over the state’s top job should it be left vacant.
Kehoe told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch his top priority is to help grow Missouri’s economy.
Canady told the Springfield News-Leader that she promises to be a champion on issues such as health care access and affordable housing.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Republican Jay Ashcroft, 47, is the only incumbent statewide official on the ballot this year who was elected to their position in 2016.
The son of former Missouri governor, U.S. Senator and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, the St. Louis County lawyer cruised to a 19-point victory four years ago for his first term in office.
This year he faces Democrat Yinka Faleti, 44, a former nonprofit executive, prosecutor and Army officer who has never before sought public office.
Faleti has accused Ashcroft of working to make it harder for Missourians to vote, most notably by supporting a voter ID law and opposing expanded mail-in and early voting.
Ashcroft told The Kansas City Star that he’s successfully administered and protected elections in the state, arguing that the most secure way to cast a ballot is in person on Election Day.
Republican Eric Schmitt, 45, was elected state treasurer in 2016. But he was appointed attorney general by Parson after Josh Hawley had to leave the office when he won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2018.
The former state senator from St. Louis County has focused his campaign for a full four-year term on the rising rate of crime in the state’s urban core. His ads have touted the “Safer Streets Initiative,” a collaboration with the U.S. attorney’s office to allow the attorney general to prosecute certain violent crimes in federal court.
He’s running against Democrat Rich Finneran, 36, a former federal prosecutor from St. Louis who has focused his campaign on health care — most notably Schmitt’s involvement in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the federal health care law. Finneran points out that if the lawsuit is successful it would eliminate protections for those with preexisting conditions.
The two also differ on the establishment of conviction integrity units in local prosecutors offices.
The units are designed to investigate past convictions and ask for a new trial when they feel a person was wrongfully convicted.
Schmitt believes it will take an act of the legislature to allow prosecutors the authority to establish a conviction integrity unit, and he’s argued his position all the way to the state’s highest court. Finneran says prosecutors have a duty to uphold justice, not just convictions.
An often overlooked state office, the state treasurer manages $1 billion in unclaimed property, manages a small business and agriculture economic development program and administers the state’s tax-advantaged education and disability savings plans.
The treasurer also sits on various boards, such as the Missouri Housing Development Commission.
Republican Scott Fitzpatrick, 33, was appointed to the job by Parson in 2018 when it was vacated by Schmitt. He previously served in the Missouri House, including as chairman of the budget committee. In an interview with the Springfield News-Leader, Fitzpatrick said he wants to improve local government budget transparency and push for a tax credit to help parents pay for education costs, including private school tuition.
Democrat Vicki Englund, 46, previously served two stints in the Missouri House representing a district in St. Louis County. She has touted her support for a Medicaid expansion proposal approved by voters in August and told the News-Leader she will bring greater diversity to the treasurer’s office.
In 2018, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that radically changed the way legislative districts would be drawn in Missouri.
The amendment, known as Clean Missouri, requires that a nonpartisan state demographer use a mathematical formula to try to engineer “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness” in legislative elections (it would have no impact at all on Congressional redistricting, which remains in the hands of the legislature).
An Associated Press analysis found that while the new method appears unlikely to impact overall control of the Missouri General Assembly, it will likely increase Democrats’ chances of cutting into Republicans’ supermajorities in the state House and Senate.
Republicans decried the new redistricting process as a Democratic power grab and immediately set about repealing it.
Lawmakers put a new constitutional amendment on the ballot that mostly reverts back to the previous method of commissions appointed by both political parties drawing the maps.
But the GOP-backed plan does contain controversial new provisions, most notably one requiring districts be drawn “on the basis of one person, one vote.”
Legal scholars agree the change could result in a redistricting process that forgoes the use of total population to draw districts and instead excludes all non-voters, specifically children and non-citizens — tilting the political scales toward older, rural areas of the state that tend to vote Republican.
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