Missouri gubernatorial candidates square off in first, possibly only debate

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri voters are 25 days away from heading to the polls and decided who will be the next governor for the state.

All four gubernatorial candidates shared a Columbia stage in their first and possibly only debate of the 2020 election.

For 90 minutes Gov. Mike Parson, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, Jerome Bauer and Rik Combs went head to head on topics like Medicaid expansion, social justice, violent crime and, of course, COVID-19.

At one point, Parson compared Friday’s debate between him and Galloway to the “bickering” on the nation level debates.

“He sometimes said you don’t hit a home run, well when we needed him to step up to the plate, he struck out,” Galloway said regarding violent crime in the state.

“Her liberal agenda is the cause of this problem from decade to decade,” Parson answered.

It was an unusual debate between the four candidates as social distancing was required on stage and there was no audience inside the Missouri Theatre.

The debate started with opening statements, where Galloway said the state needs someone new in charge.

“Gov. Parson has failed the test of leadership and it’s time for a change,” Galloway said.

During his opening statement, Parson explained his accomplishments as a former sheriff, father, husband and business owner and explained why those qualities are important to bring to Jefferson City.

The topic of COVID-19 was first on the list during the debate, asking the candidates what has this virus shown about the state’s healthcare system?

“We are too dependent on foreign countries,” Parson said. “We had to develop our own data plan.”

Galloway responded by saying this virus has shown cracks in the system and has made them worse.

Candidates were asked if raising taxes were in their agenda, and if so, where would it come from.

“I am not proposing any tax increases for the agenda I have laid out,” Galloway said.

“I won’t raise taxes in the state of Missouri unless the people of Missouri want their taxes raised,” Parson said.

Combs said he believes taxes should be reduced.

“If we reduce some of these taxes and do away with corporate taxes, we will see more people move into the state,” Combs said. “If you slash taxes and when you cut spending, it makes life a whole lot easier.”

Bauer said he would raise corporate taxes and include taxes on recreational drugs.

Candidates were then faced with the question if they would consider defunding the police.

“I will never defund the police officers and I will always stand before them and stand up for them in the state of Missouri,” Parson said. These guys are working their tail ends off to keep Missourians safe. The entire state is having a hard time hiring police officers. I want to help them do their jobs and put more officers on the street.”

“I do not support defunding the police,” Galloway responded. “There’s only one person on the stage who has defunded the police and that is Gov. Parson.”

That question lead to asking the candidates’ thoughts on social justice.

“Black lives matter, all lives matter in this state,” Parson said. “It’s about taking care of one another and that’s what we’ve done in this state.”

“I have put forward a comprehensive police reform package that can put trust in law enforcement in the communities they serve,” Galloway said.

One month after Parson’s special session on violent crime ended, Galloway and Parson were asked what they would do to continue reducing Missouri crime.

“I stand with 90 percent of Missourians that want common-sense gun safety rules,” Galloway said.

“We need to partner with the federal, state and local police, which is what we’ve done,” Parson said.

Amendment 3 was also a topic during the date. Candidates were asked if they support the November ballot question.

“I support Clean Missouri,” Galloway said. “I don’t support Amendment 3.”

“I am leaning towards a yes vote on 3,” Combs said. “If someone can compel me to vote the other way, I might do that.”

Parson said he agreed with Combs. “To go back to voters and ask them again if this is what they want, I don’t think that’s bad,” Parson said.

Bauer said he’s against the amendment.

Medicaid expansion was also a topic after voters approved the expansion in the August election.

Galloway said she supported the expansion and said it “can be implemented in a fiscally responsible way.”

“The people voted for it,” Parson said. “We’re going to put it in place.”

You can watch the debate by clicking here.

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