“You don’t need government to tell you to wear a dang mask,” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, unmasked, said on July 11 at the 17th annual Missouri Cattlemen's Association Steak Fry in Sedalia. Parson also shared photographs of himself and his wife congregating with voters at the event, unmasked and elbow-to-elbow.
“Governor Parson reminds all Missourians to social distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands frequently,” Parson’s office announced on September 23.
What happened in the intervening two and a half months? On September 23, first lady Teresa Parson and then the governor himself tested positive for COVID-19. The first lady’s test was prompted by symptoms, but the governor reported no systems at the time of his positive test.
The virus, in addition to making Parson’s careless actions over the first, crucial six months of the pandemic look incredibly ill-informed and indeed dangerous, also drove a temporary wedge between the first couple. Because the first lady’s symptom onset occurred prior to the governor’s positive test while asymptomatic, her isolation could end earlier than the governor's on September 28. The governor was scheduled to isolate through October 3.
Illness being a serious personal matter, no one in the Missouri Democratic Party piled on publicly with “I told you so” comments mocking Parson for not wearing a mask or socially distancing at so many public and campaign functions.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway, the Democratic nominee for governor, issued a mild statement. “I wish Governor Parson and First Lady Teresa Parson a safe and full recovery,” Galloway stated. “This is a stark reminder that this virus can reach anyone, anywhere and that this pandemic is far from over. We must all continue to do our part in preventing the spread of the virus by practicing social distancing, washing hands, and wearing a mask.”
The American did not bother to try to get more than that statement out of Galloway. This close to the November 3 election, she is not about to veer an inch away from her talking points. The state party and other Missouri Democratic leaders issued similarly mild and supportive public comments.
The governor’s office said that he will continue to do his usual damage to the state by continuing “to fulfill his duties from the Governor's Mansion” and participating online in scheduled events, calls, and interviews.
To show that the former sheriff can continue to do macho stuff while down with the rona, Parson almost immediately signed Executive Order 20-17 activating the Missouri National Guard “as a precautionary measure in response to recent instances of civil unrest across the country.” That means Missouri is once again in an official state of emergency.
Obama endorses (only) Galloway, Schupp
In 111 total endorsements that former President Barack Obama made in his second round of endorsements in the 2020 elections, he endorsed only two candidates in Missouri: Nicole Galloway for governor and Jill Schupp for Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District. Compare this to 14 endorsement that Obama made in both Arizona and Florida and 11 that he made in both Georgia and Wisconsin. And this is after Obama passed over all Missouri candidates in his first round of 118 endorsements in August.
It’s interesting to speculate why. Though it’s true that less can be more in offering endorsements, clearly he did not use a “less is more” strategy in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin. It could be that Obama and his advisers don’t see much hope for Missouri Democrats flipping seats in this election. It could be that Obama, his advisers and his counterparts in Missouri are not sure his endorsement would help Democrats win in a state that Obama lost by a half-million votes to Mitt Romney.
Obama’s office offered only this insight into his strategy: “In every round of endorsements President Obama has issued since leaving office, he has supported candidates running at the state level who the National Democratic Redistricting Committee has identified as critical to the upcoming redistricting process. This fall is the last opportunity for voters to decide who will have a seat at the table when new maps are drawn in 2021 – maps that will be in place for the next decade. As President Obama has said, gerrymandering must be abolished so voters can choose their elected officials, not the other way around.”
One thing is clear: Obama was offering no symbolic endorsements. In a state that has never elected a Black person statewide, the nation’s first nationwide elected official did not endorse Yinka Faleti for secretary of state or Alissia Canady for lieutenant governor, both Black Democratic nominees in Missouri. And with an upstart activist in Cori Bush coming out of a stunning primary victory over 10-term Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay, Obama did not toss a bone to the activist base by adding Bush to his endorsement list.
Only Galloway and Schupp.
Galloway is one of only three gubernatorial candidates across the country to receive Obama’s endorsement this year.
“From protecting Missourians with preexisting conditions to tackling COVID-19, President Barack Obama knows the stakes of this election couldn’t be higher,” Galloway said in a statement. “Every day our campaign is growing and I’m proud to have earned President Obama’s endorsement in this race. This November, we will finally put Jefferson City back on the side of working families, build an economic recovery that leaves no one behind, and expand access to affordable healthcare.”
Schupp also released an obvious and unremarkable statement about Obama recognizing “a chance to flip Missouri's Second District Blue and bring real change to our community. I'm committed to restoring civility and trust in our government, and working across the aisle to get things done for families in our district.” A month before a general election is not the best time to get a candidate to speak the unvarnished truth.
Ashcroft misleads on Amendment 3
Obama’s high-minded concern for democracy in America might have inspired him to pinch off one more Missouri endorsement to Yinka Faleti, a U.S. Army veteran born in Nigeria who has to make up the 100,000 more primary votes that legacy Republican incumbent John “Jay” Ashcroft got on August 4, when both candidates had no primary opponent. Ashcroft responded to President Donald Trump undermining the U.S. Postal Service by telling Missouri voters that maybe they should not vote by mail – when the Missouri Legislature just established new mail voting options as a pandemic protection.
In his latest anti-democratic performance as the protector of Missouri’s electoral democracy, Ashcroft issued ballots in Buchanan and Vernon counties with false and misleading ballot language for Amendment 3 – ballot language that was defeated in a court challenge. Amendment 3 is the Republican effort to preserve the Republican gerrymandering that voters strongly rejected when they passed Clean Missouri in 2018. Other counties did not receive their ballots in time for voters to cast their absentee vote.
“Jay Ashcroft’s disregard for our Missouri courts has reached a dire tipping point," Faleti said in a statement. "We know from his own words that he lacks respect for orders of Missouri courts; and, now, we plainly see that his lack of respect extends to Missouri voters as well. He has failed to administer a fair and honest election, instead introducing chaos and confusion by allowing language that the Western District court has already ruled improper and incorrect to make it onto ballots that reached voters around the state.”
Two courts ruled that the Republicans' language for Amendment 3 broke the law because it gave voters false information about what is in the fine print of Amendment 3. The second and final ruling from the Western District Court of Appeals ordered new language to appear on all ballots.
Sean Soendker Nicholson, campaign director for the No on 3 campaign, pointed out that Amendment 3 only changes lobbyist gift limits by $5 and only changes contribution limits by $100. “That's not reform,” Nicholson said — “that's a smokescreen to distract voters from the real goal of the plan, which is letting lobbyists and political operatives draw district maps to protect their favorite politicians."