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Galloway hits Parson on COVID-19, Medicaid expansion during Springfield stop

Austin Huguelet
Springfield News-Leader
Nicole Galloway, Democratic candidate for governor, made a campaign stop Friday in Springfield at the Teamsters hall.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway made her first visit to Springfield as the Democratic nominee for governor Friday and told a small audience at a Teamsters hall she’s the only candidate with a real plan to stop the virus and implement Medicaid expansion.

In a speech that closely mirrored her election night remarks from Tuesday, Galloway said tackling the virus and rebuilding the economy will be the most important task of the next four years.

Then she launched familiar attacks on how Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, has handled the issue so far.

“When it became clear this spring that the governor needed to issue a statewide order to flatten the curve, Governor Parson resisted,” she said. “He was slow to act.”

Indeed, Parson was one of the last governors to issue a statewide stay-at-home order in April at the urging of public health experts and declined to close non-essential businesses like other states when he did.

Parson defended his resistance at the time by pointing out the virus was affecting urban areas differently than rural areas and that local officials should be able to make their own decisions.

Galloway also went after Parson for his resistance to mask-wearing in recent weeks when caseloads and hospitalizations have been on the rise and referenced comments he made lampooning statewide mandates in place in more than two dozen other states.

“You don’t need government to tell you to wear a dang mask,” Parson told one crowd last month. “If you want to wear a dang mask, wear a mask."

Galloway said that kind of behavior undermined the sacrifices Missourians made to stay home and slow the spread earlier this year.

She said she would “reset” coronavirus strategy by convening experts, offering “universal testing,” bolstering supplies of personal protective equipment and offering better guidance for schools reopening.

“We need a call to action and some urgency,” she said. “Governor Parson had his chance. He failed. It’s time for a change.”

Parson, for his part, has repeatedly defended his administration’s response to the virus, pointing out that the state has drastically increased testing capacity and noting that Missouri hospitals have yet to be overwhelmed as they have been in other states.

He’s also made a point of talking about the state’s efforts to create an online PPE marketplace and his own efforts to meet with school leaders in recent weeks, though he took criticism last month when he said kids will catch COVID-19 when they return to school and “get over it.”

(He later said he “didn’t do a good job of explaining” his thoughts on the issue and was doing everything possible to keep schools safe.)

Galloway also claimed Parson would try to undermine Medicaid expansion despite voters approving a constitutional amendment Tuesday requiring the state to do so.

Parson suggested otherwise Wednesday, telling reporters at a news conference, “the people of the state of Missouri voted that in, so we’re going to have to deal with it and implement it.”

But Galloway said Parson's word can't be trusted while he supports a plan forcing another vote this year on a redistricting reform package voters passed in 2018.

“Governor Parson has a track record of thinking he knows better than the voters,” she said.

She also criticized Parson for suggesting expansion will challenge the state’s budget.

“You're probably looking at $200 million or something like that off the bat,” Parson said Wednesday, “so we've got to figure out where that funding's going to come from.”

Galloway, for her part, said the money will come from savings achieved by expansion shifting certain Medicaid costs to the federal government and additional revenue produced by billion of dollars of new federal investment.

"This is the greatest economic development opportunity our state has ever had," she said.

Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him atahuguelet@news-leader.com.

Nicole Galloway, Democratic candidate for Missouri governor, speaks during a Friday campaign stop in Springfield.