Gov. Mike Parson announced his official bid for the 2020 gubernatorial race Sunday, Sept. 8, in a hometown campaign rally at Bolivar High School.
The event focused on Parson’s patriotism, conservatism and hometown pride — punctuated with shouts of “I like Mike!” and a crowd-rousing rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American.”
American pride continued as a theme shared by participants throughout Sunday’s event.
During his speech, Parson called his hometown, Bolivar, “the perfect place to tell you a story about the American dream.”
He touched on his local roots, military and law enforcement background, and his past as a small business owner. He talked about how he learned the values of hard work and common sense in the community he calls home.
“There’s only one place in the world where someone from a small rural town with modest means could have the opportunities I have had,” Parson said.
He said he’s running for office “to make sure everyone has the chance to pursue the American dream, to move Missouri forward with common sense, with honor and integrity.”
Hitting on highlights from his current term as governor, Parson said “the Missouri economy is booming.”
He also talked about a $1 billion investment in Missouri’s infrastructure, an end to a “pointless border war with Kansas,” and a reorganization of Missouri’s government.
Rallying the crowd before Parson’s entrance, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft — joined on stage at one point by Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt — said he doesn’t “know if there was an election as crucial to the future of America as the next.”
Talking about having 20/20 vision for the 2020 election cycle, John Ashcroft said “there’s something different, there’s something unique about our circumstance today” than in past elections during his lifetime.
“But make no mistake about it, freedom is in the balance. Liberty is on trial in America right now. And the American people are a jury, delivering a verdict. Do we want to continue to live in freedom?” John Ashcroft said. “... We are in the process of making America great again.”
Parson transitioned from the lieutenant governor’s office to the state’s top executive seat in June 2018 following the resignation of former Gov. Eric Greitens.
The Republican — who previously served as Polk County sheriff, 28th district state senator and 133rd district state representative — will face Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, Democrat, in 2020. She formally announced her bid last month.
He is also challenged by Republican state lawmaker Rep. Jim Neely of Cameron. Neely announced his bid Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Parson’s opponents responded Sunday to his entrance into the race.
In a news release, Neely’s campaign said it “welcomes” Parson, who it described as a “latecomer” to the primary race.
“I’m pleased to see that the race is finally heating up,” Neely, a longtime physician and Republican state legislator, said in the release.
“This primary shouldn’t be a coronation for myself, or anyone else,” he added. “It’s an opportunity to discuss the issues that matter to Missourians who are fighting for their lives.”
Galloway reacted to Parson’s announcement via a video posted to her social media account Sunday afternoon.
“Gov. Parson has announced that he wants four more years,” she said in the video. “Missouri families simply can’t afford it, especially everyday working families who continue to struggle with the cost of everything from health insurance and prescription drugs, to property tax and rent.”
Galloway added “well-connected insiders get what they want while Missouri families continue to struggle.”
“I know we can do better,” she said. “We need a new way. So I look forward to holding Governor Parson accountable on the issues. The people of Missouri should know there is someone looking out for them.”
David Talley, reporter, contributed to this report.