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Parson goes home to Bolivar for gubernatorial campaign announcement: ‘Now is the time to get to work’

BOLIVAR, Mo. — In a nearly full auditorium at the high school in his hometown, Gov. Mike Parson made his 2020 gubernatorial bid official. 

In his year as Missouri’s chief executive he has focused on workforce development and infrastructure. And he promised his supporters, if given a full four-year term, “to do more.”

“We will continue cutting regulations to reignite manufacturing jobs, and legal reform to make it easier for job creators, and continue this forward momentum with more pro-growth policies that attract new jobs to our state,” Parson told about 1,300 people gathered inside Bolivar High School’s auditorium. 

Gov. Mike Parson announces his bid for a full term as governor (ALISHA SHURR/THE MISSOURI TIMES).

The 63-year-old farmer, who rose to the rank of governor following the resignation of scandal-plagued Eric Greitens, highlighted his background and accomplishments. He pointed his successful push for more funding for roads and bridges, job training programs, ending the so-called “border war” with Kansas, and the restructuring of several state agencies.

“We have done this all in just over a year with faith, hard work, common sense, and coming together. But we plan to do more,” Parson said. 

“We can continue  to bring jobs to this state, continue to improve our workforce, continue to work on education and infrastructure,” he said. “We can do all of this with a servant’s heart, with the American values of which we were raised: love of country, love of family, Christian faith, common sense, and conservative principles.” 

Parson’s speech was interrupted twice by protestors from Missouri Health Care For All, a grassroots group that promotes Medicaid expansion. About five people were removed from the event after shouting, “Shame on Parson,” and holding signs related to Medicaid. 

“This is a public health crisis. How can Governor Parson even think of asking for our votes when he is refusing to show leadership in addressing the Medicaid purge?” Rebecca Johnson, the group’s Springfield organizer, said in a statement.  

In a move outside of his normal political persona, Parson took several jabs at Democrats — lambasting the national party for supporting open borders, boycotting Israel, and government run healthcare. In particular, he criticized 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for plans related to climate change and free college tuition.

Parson got a standing ovation — and chants of “USA” — when he promised to “stand up” for the American flag. 

“The worst part of where the extreme left is going is how they are openly disrespecting the American flag and kneeling instead of standing during our national anthem,” Parson said. “Oh, I understand it is free speech … but, free speech works both ways. And as someone who has worn a military uniform, let me tell you something as clear as I can say it: As your governor, I will always stand up.” 

Supporters harped on Parson’s personality and approachability. Blaine and Lynnette McCulloh, a couple from Bolivar, sat near the back of the high school’s auditorium, proudly sporting Parson paraphernalia. The pair said they supported the governor because of his conservative values and “down-to-earth” personality. In fact, the McCullohs had just seen Parson on Friday dining at the local Wendy’s fast food restaurant. 

“He’s very honest, straight shooting, and down-to-earth,” Blaine McCulloh told The Missouri Times. 

Parson made his candidacy official Sunday afternoon — walking out to Toby Keith’s “Made in America” — but ahead of the announcement, campaign signs already adorned several lawns and businesses in his hometown of Bolivar. And the campaign sold about $4,000 in merchandise at the announcement event Sunday, a campaign spokesperson told The Missouri Times. 

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe attend Gov. Mike Parson campaign event (ALISHA SHURR/THE MISSOURI TIMES).

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft — who represented Missouri in the U.S. Senate — spoke in support of Parson at the rally. Ashcroft is the lone Republican to serve two consecutive terms as Missouri’s governor.

Branson-based entertainers Billy Yates and Nadia Cole both performed at the rally, as well. Alicia House, Parson’s granddaughter, sang the national anthem.

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Born in 1955 in Wheatland, Parson grew up on a farm and graduated from Wheatland High School in 1973. He joined the U.S. Army at 19 years old where he served two tours — one in Germany and another in Hawaii — in the military police corps. He eventually worked his way up to the criminal investigation division of the Army. 

From 1993 to 2005, Parson served as the elected Polk County sheriff. At the same time, he also ran a small farm in Bolivar as well as two gas stations. 

Following his tenure as sheriff, he entered the Missouri House of Representatives and then the Missouri Senate. In his time in the legislature, Parson fought to strengthen laws protecting farmers, the use of deadly force to ward off attacks, and was an outspoken opponent of abortion. In his stump speech Sunday, Parson promised to continue to “fight to protect the unborn.” 

As lieutenant governor, Parson led the effort to overhaul Missouri’s board and commissions and highlighted problems at veterans homes. He came out in support of raising taxes for transportation infrastructure and was opposed to Greitens’ move to freeze low-income housing tax credits.

In his 2020 gubernatorial bid, Parson — who currently has a primary opponent in Rep. Jim Neely — will likely faceoff against Democratic contender Nicole Galloway in the general election. 

“Missouri families can’t afford four more years of Governor Parson. Nearly 100,000 kids have lost their health coverage, rural hospitals continue to close, school districts are going to four-day weeks, and gun violence is ripping our communities apart,” Galloway said in a statement following Parson’s announcement. 

As of the July quarterly filings, Galloway had brought in $117,259. Parson, on the other hand, raked in nearly $120,000. Both also spent similar amounts this cycle: Galloway spent a little more than $45,000 whereas Parson spent about $42,000.

Meanwhile, Parson’s Uniting Missouri PAC reported more than $2.8 million cash on hand with nearly $649,000 coming in the most recent quarter. Galloway’s Keep Government Accountable PAC reported $20,937.75 with $9,000.00 coming in this quarter — though the committee has received several large donations since the last filings.