MO State Capital

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Every four years, Missouri votes for President and also elects five of its statewide offices -- governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general -- in addition to voting for all eight of its U.S. Representatives, all 163 members of the state House of Representatives and half of its 34-member Senate

This busy election also matches up with a U.S. Census and upcoming redistricting process, as well as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which University of Missouri political scientist

Peverill Squire says is a tough factor for making predictions for the Nov. 3 election.

“It certainly has the prospect to be a wild card in the election,” he says.

Not only will it change voting behavior, the view on how the state has responded to the virus — positive or negative — is a key campaign issue, Squire says.

“It raises the question of how well the state has handled the pandemic,” he says.

Governor’s race

Incumbent Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, is running against state Auditor Nicole Galloway, who is the only Democrat to hold one of the five statewide offices.

Parson is a farmer from southwest Missouri who served as Polk County sheriff before serving in the state legislature. He was elected lieutenant governor in 2016 and became governor in 2018 when incumbent Eric Greitens resigned.

Galloway is a certified public accountant from the St. Louis area who has served as Boone County treasurer and then state auditor. If elected, she would become Missouri’s first female governor.

Squire says that while Missouri’s state legislature has two-thirds majorities in both chambers for Republicans, the state’s governor races can be competitive.

“It really has to do with the way the population is distributed,” he says of the Republican advantages in the state legislature.

Most of Missouri’s rural areas lean Republican, while Democrats have the advantage in the populous Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis areas.

“The two parties on the statewide level are pretty competitive,” he says.

Missouri’s rural areas have not always been as heavily Republican, although Squire says the differences between rural and urban priorities have contributed to that shift.

“I think it’s probably been built more around the cultural divide between the rural areas and urban areas,” he says. “They have divergent views on gun control and abortion. The rural economies are more dependent on agriculture and the urban economies are more diversified.”

Squire says Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon, who won the gubernatorial race by wide margins in 2008 and 2012 and carried many rural counties, was able to do what some recent Democrats have not.

“Democrats have struggled to connect with rural voters,” he says. “Jay Nixon could do it, but most of them haven’t figured out how.”

Still, Squire says Missouri’s governor race looks to be the most intriguing aspect of this election.

“The gubernatorial race is probably the most interesting,” he says. “The Democrat challenger has the resources to run a competitive race. Democrats have to run up big numbers in the urban areas (for Galloway to win).”

Congressional districts

Missouri’s eight Congressional districts are held by six Republicans and two Democrats, and most districts are expected to stay safely for the incumbent party, except the 2nd District, which includes parts of suburban St. Louis. Incumbent Republican Ann Wagner faces Democrat challenger Jill Schupp.

“I think both parties know it’s a tossup,” Squire says.

Other issues

Missouri voters will also decide on Amendment 3, which would change the redistricting process approved by voters in 2018. The vote in 2018 called for a “nonpartisan state demographer” to draw the new districts, with competitive districts as a priority, while Amendment 3 would change that to a bipartisan commission appointed by the governor.

It would also change the threshold on lobbyist gifts from $5 to $0, and lower the limit for state senate campaign contributions from $2,500 to $2,400.

As for the presidential race, Squire expects Missouri to again vote for President Donald Trump over former Vice President Joe Biden, although the margins may change.

“My guess is Trump will win, maybe not by as much as he did in 2016,” he says.

Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by nearly 19% in 2016.

Missouri has historically been a battleground state and an indicator of how the national election will go. From 1904 through 2004, Missouri voted for the national election winner every time except one, in 1956 when the Show-Me State voted for Adlai Stevenson instead of President Dwight Eisenhower.

However, in recent elections Missouri has shifted more to the Republican side. Bill Clinton in 1996 was the last Democrat to carry Missouri on election night, although Squire points out Barack Obama was very competitive in 2008, losing Missouri by a narrow 49.4% to 49.3% margin against John McCain.

Corrected Nov. 2. This story originally incorrectly identified one of the five statewide races on the ballot in the Nov. 3 election as state auditor. The five offices on the ballot are governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general. Missouri Farmer Today regrets the error

Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.