HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Fresh off her expected victory in the Democratic primary last week, gubernatorial candidate Nicole Galloway has wasted no time crisscrossing the state to meet with voters in more than a dozen cities, including Hannibal, Kirksville, Sedalia, Troy and others.
During her stop in Hannibal, Galloway panned Parson for his handling of the state's COVID-19 response.
"No politician caused the coronavirus pandemic, but years of failed policies leading up to it have made it so much worse than it needs to be," Galloway said.
Per the state health department, more than 59,900 Missourians have contracted the virus and 1,300 people have died from the virus since March. Galloway says the virus has also put more than 200,000 Missourians out of work and caused more than 100,000 Missourians to lose their health insurance.
"He should have been stronger on masks, on testing, contact tracing, stronger on PPE. He should have done more in partnership with our school districts to help them reopen this fall," said Galloway, who added that she believes the recent narrowing of the polls, which has the race in a statistical dead heat, shows that Missourians "have seen Governor Parson's leadership under a microscope, and they do not like what they see."
Galloway pointed to Parson's decision to not join with fellow Midwestern governors to devise a regional strategy to contain the virus and his reluctance to heed calls from local public health officials to issue a statewide mask mandate as evidence of his "failed leadership."
"While public health officials urge Missourians to wear a mask, Gov. Parson instead stood up for those who wanted to defy public health and government guidance. He goes to campaign rallies and revved his supporters up by saying that he wouldn't issue a mask rule for Missouri. He waited to order all of the schools to close until all of the schools were already closed. Then, he has spent the next three months doing nothing to support school districts, to help them reopen safely," Galloway said.
"In times of crisis and unrest, public officials must step up, take control and act. Gov. Parson has had his chance and he failed the test of leadership," said Galloway, who is the state's lone Democrat elected to statewide office in Missouri. If elected in November, she would be the state's first female governor, a point she did not raise during her stop in Hannibal. Instead, she opted to focus her remarks on how she would lead the state through the pandemic if elected.
Galloway said, "We need a complete reset on the coronavirus strategy, because this (pandemic) is not over. We need universal testing. Our health care providers need more supplies and need to have a stockpile in reserve."
Among her priorities, Galloway said is to ensure that Medicaid expansion is implemented next year. Implementation is expected to expand eligibility to more than 200,000 Missourians next year, to bring more than $1 billion in federal tax dollars to the state, and create more than 16,000 jobs each year through the first five years of implementation.
"The future of Medicaid expansion depends on who is in the governor's mansion when it comes time to expand it next year. We can expand healthcare without raising taxes or cutting other programs. As Governor, that is exactly what I will do. I believe Governor Parson will undermine the will of the voters," said Galloway, pointing to efforts led by Parson to overturn Clean Missouri, an anti-gerrymandering and ethics reform package approved by voters in 2018, and to implement Right to Work laws by county ordinance in the state following a statewide vote where 67% of Missouri voters rejected efforts to make Missouri a right to work state.
"Of course, there are folks who did not support Medicaid expansion. I believe that it will be my job as governor to implement Medicaid expansion in a way that those folks will be able to see the longterm benefit and that they too, in the end, will support it," Galloway said.
Galloway said reports about staffing shortages in the state health department were "unacceptable" especially during a pandemic.
"We know the tools that we have available to us to slow the spread of the virus -- that is testing, that is contact tracing, we need PPE," said Galloway, who said as governor she would implement a mask order statewide to help control the spread of the virus.
She also pushed back on criticisms that she is politicizing the virus, saying the blame for politicizing the virus rests with Parson, who told a crowd of supporters last month that "you don't need government to tell you to wear a dang mask...if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask."
Galloway said, "Even Walmart requires a mask because it is known to help slow the spread of the virus. Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country are asking people to wear a mask, because it is known to slow the spread of the virus."