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Ham Breakfast Kicks Off Unofficial Start To Missouri's 2020 Governor's Race

Gov. Mike Parson addresses a crowd of supporters at the Governor's Ham Breakfast on Aug. 15, 2019
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Mike Parson talks to a crowd of supporters about the importance of agriculture at the Missouri State Fair on Aug. 15, 2019.

Missouri’s two likely nominees for the 2020 governor’s race have similar stances on gun reform measures needed in the state, but are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to access to abortion. 

Democratic Auditor Nicole Galloway and Republican Gov. Mike Parson both spoke with members of the press at the annual Governor’s Ham Breakfast at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia on Thursday. 

Parson has not officially entered the race yet, but Galloway, who announced her candidacy Monday, was critical of the incumbent’s leadership. 

“It sounds to me like the governor is afraid of accountability,” she said. “Because he cannot defend why 95,000 kids have been kicked off of health care, or why he is part of a lawsuit that is trying to get rid of preexisting-condition coverage for 1.2 million Missourians, or what he’s going to do to make our communities safer in the wake of all the gun violence that we have seen.” 

Auditor Nicole Galloway greets supporters at the Governor's Ham Breakfast on Aug. 15, 2019.
Credit Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio
After announcing her candidacy for governor on Monday, Auditor Nicole Galloway meets with supporters at the Governor's Ham Breakfast at the Missouri State Fair.

Galloway was referring to Missouri’s Medicaid enrollment issues that resulted in roughly 120,000 people removed from the rolls and a multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, is continuing the lawsuit begun under now-U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley’s tenure. The attorney general’s office is separate from the governor’s. 

Parson has created a task force to look at health insurance coverage in the state and what can be done to improve it.

Agreement on the need for gun law change 

Parson expressed a need for gun law changes, referencing a 2018 USA Today list that ranked the state’s three largest cities among the 12 most dangerous cities in the country. 

“Whether it’s St. Louis, Kansas City or Springfield — we’ve got three cities in the top 12 in the United States,” he said. “We have to fundamentally take a look and see what it is we need to do and what we can do better.”

Parson said a citizen’s right to bear arms is important, but he supports stricter background checks, increased law enforcement presence and mental health resources. He also supports a version of the so-called red flag laws.

“Whether that means when people on social media today — some of the things they’re putting out,” he said. “Yeah, I think they should be flagged sometimes. If you’re threatening to kill somebody, somebody ought to know you’re doing that.”

Galloway also referenced that same USA Today report and said, “You can’t even have your kids play in the backyard in some parts of our state because of fear of them being shot.” 

She called for universal background checks, getting rid of gun-purchasing loopholes and adding red-flag laws.

One key issue the two disagree on is abortion. Parson signed a bill in May that bans abortion at eight weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest. The measure is set to become law on Aug. 28. 

Galloway called the legislation “cruel” and “extreme.” She said it “gives more power to rapists over their victims.” 

She said she believes there should be abortion restrictions “later in pregnancy,” but when pressed on specifics, she said: “I trust women to make their own health care decisions. Plain and simple.” 

Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR

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Jaclyn is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.