After he won a tough primary against Missouri Club for Growth’s Bev Randles, only a handful of people gave Sen. Mike Parson a chance of beating the Democratic contender, former Congressman Russ Carnahan. Carnahan was well-known around the state, well-liked in his former district and, most importantly, he had the Carnahan name – one of the most influential political families in Missouri in the last generation.
Naturally, Parson crushed Carnahan by nearly 11 points.
The former Polk County Sheriff from Bolivar will be inaugurated into the second-highest rank in state government in January, and he now has the potential to become an impactful member of the next administration.
For the last eight years, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has presided over the Senate with a Democratic governor serving above him. The collaboration between the two was minimal, mainly because of the ideological and partisan divide between the two. However, Parson will work with a Republican governor in Gov.-elect Eric Greitens, and some are urging Greitens to ensure that Parson plays a role in his governing process.
“I think he would be well-served… to include Sen. Parson in a lot of those types of discussions,” Sen. Doug Libla said. “I do know that there’s a lot of information there that the governor-elect could draw on.”
A lot of Parson’s specialties fill the gaps that still remain for a governor who has yet to work in government. While Greitens won on his outsider platform, there are clear benefits to being an “insider” that Greitens lacks given his lack of governmental experience – knowing the intricacies of the executive bureaucracy, recognizing legislators and dealing with them on a first name basis, operating in one of the largest organizations of any kind in the state. Parson can help Greitens with all of these, showing him the ropes so to speak.
“I’m sure that Sen. Parson would simply be glad to share knowledge and the networking that you need to do with the Legislature… but [also] business leaders and education leaders across the state,” Libla said.
As Libla notes, Parson can help build the connection between the General Assembly, and the executive office that many feel has been lacking the past eight years. Parson had successful stints in both the House and Senate and made a lot of connections on both sides of the aisle.
Democratic Sen. Jason Holsman said that he enjoyed working with Parson as a senator the last four years and appreciated his ability to “calm the negativity in our politics.”
“The voters rewarded him with the opportunity to serve as President of the Senate and I look forward to working with him next session,” he said.
Parson could also bridge any remaining rift between the governor’s office and the agricultural community. The Missouri Farm Bureau and most other influential agricultural groups publicly endorsed Greitens’ opponent, outgoing Attorney General Chris Koster. While Libla believes that those endorsements are water under the bridge, it may mean that the agricultural community does not have as prominent a seat at the table in a Greitens administration as they would have in Koster’s had he won.
But Parson, who owns a cattle ranch in Bolivar, embodies that community perhaps more than any statewide office holder has in years.
“We have a very good relationship with Mike,” said Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst. “He is a farmer and understands not only the economics of farming, but he gets the culture. He knows about getting cows out right before you go to church, so I think farmers just respond to that. The rapport is almost immediate and it’s very strong.”
Hurst added that he’s not worried their organization backed the slower horse, and that he expected Greitens to maintain Missouri’s commitment to farmers.
“I’m confident that Gov.-elect Greitens will be a friend of agriculture, but we also appreciate the fact that Mike was successful in his race that’s important to us as well.”