Missouri voters gave Republican Gov. Mike Parson a full, four-year term Tuesday, propelling him to victory on the strength of rural support.
The Associated Press projected the race for Parson just before 10 p.m. with unofficial tallies giving him a 60%-38% win over Democratic Auditor Nicole Galloway with more than 1.6 million votes counted.
In a state that went for President Donald Trump by 19 points in 2016 and handily for Trump again on Tuesday, Galloway had hoped for strong turnout in Democratic strongholds. In St. Louis, for example, 80% of voters supported her, according to unofficial returns.
The outcome mirrored the 2018 U.S. Senate race that saw Republican Josh Hawley beat incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, despite her winning in the state's urban areas of St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia.
In a victory speech at his election night party in Springfield, Parson thanked voters for having the "trust and confidence" to give him a full four-year term. Parson, formerly lieutenant governor, became governor in 2018 after Eric Greitens resigned under a cloud of scandal.
"This election was about preserving freedom, capitalism and the rule of law," the 65-year-old former sheriff said. "I believe it is our time to preserve freedom for the next generation."
Galloway, who has two years left in her term as auditor, thanked her family, campaign staff and her supporters in labor organizations, who provided millions in campaign funding.
“You can bet: I’ll keep demanding accountability and transparency from politicians in Jefferson City for years to come,” Galloway told her family and supporters at the Tiger Hotel in Columbia. “I’m not going anywhere, Missouri.”
Parson, a Bolivar cattle farmer, made no public appearances earlier Tuesday, instead spending time with his family and his livestock.
On Monday, he and most of the statewide GOP ticket — Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick — embarked on a six-stop tour to get out the vote.
Jean Evans, executive director of the Missouri GOP, said the state party arranged the tour on a private twin-jet airplane. Candidates took off in Jefferson City, then flew to St. Joseph, Kirksville, Hannibal, Cape Girardeau and Cassville. The party arranged the tour through a Chesterfield-based charter company, American Air Charter Inc.
Evans said a donor contributed the flights to the party, but she did not respond to follow-up messages asking who the donor was. Michael and Susan Ketchmark, of Leawood, Kansas, made in-kind contributions totaling $28,000 on Tuesday to the state GOP, according to state ethics regulators.
Michael Ketchmark listed his employer as the Kansas City-based law firm Ketchmark & McCreight while Susan Ketchmark listed her occupation as homemaker.
The election-eve barnstorm hit the state’s deeply conservative areas, as Parson and the others shored up support among the GOP’s rural base in order to offset losses expected in the cities and some suburbs.
Galloway, 38, of Columbia, spent the morning of Election Day in St. Louis, where she visited a polling place at Mullanphy ILC Elementary School, 4221 Shaw Boulevard, with city Treasurer Tishaura Jones. She headed to Keeven Elementary School, 11230 Old Halls Ferry Road, and made several other St. Louis-area stops before trekking back to Columbia.
Galloway outspends Parson
Though polling results released throughout the campaign, and as late as last weekend, showed Parson maintaining a single-digit lead over Galloway, Democrats were betting a last-minute push over the airwaves plus get-out-the-vote efforts would lift Galloway over the top.
Galloway’s campaign, along with her political action committee, A Stronger Missouri, were set to outspend Parson’s campaign and affiliated PAC, Uniting Missouri, on television in the last week of the campaign, according to figures provided by the Galloway campaign.
The figures showed Galloway’s campaign apparatus spending $2.86 million on television ads between Oct. 27 and Tuesday, compared with Parson’s campaign apparatus spending $2.26 million in the final week.
Galloway focused her campaign on lowering health care costs and carrying out the expansion of Medicaid that voters approved in August. She criticized the Parson administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and said she would act urgently to control the virus.
Parson stressed his ties to law enforcement and said he would restore the state's economy. He has refused to impose a mask mandate during the pandemic. Parson attempted to frame the race as a choice between freedom and socialism.
Galloway argued — amid record COVID-19 hospitalizations in October — that Missouri won’t recover economically until the state drives down infection rates.