(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Missouri candidates for governor will participate in a forum at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, moderated by David Lieb of The Associated Press.
During the 90-minute debate, you’ll hear from Republican Gov. Mike Parson, Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway, Libertarian Rik Combs, and Green Party Candidate Jerome Bauer.
Melinda Kovacs, a professor teaching political science at Missouri Western State University, said the forum’s inclusion of all four parties will factor into how the candidates will frame issues and possibly provide more granular insights about the candidates’ views.
“It brings up the issue of, the extent to which, having a Libertarian party candidate and Green Party candidate changes the dynamic when in fact, both nationwide and in Missouri, the real players that are seriously expected to duke it out for office are the democratic party and the republican party,” Kovacs said. “It will be interesting to see if the two minor parties will provide support for the major party candidates or detract.”
Kovacs said she can’t predict how the candidates will move and interact but she is certain of one thing; The coronavirus pandemic will be on the table.
To date, Missouri reports more than 137,000 people have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began and more than 2,200 people have died.
“I cannot imagine a scenario in which that would not be front and center so I expect the other candidates are definitely going to bring that up,” she said. “I expect they would formulate a lot of questions and the response to COVID-19 in Missouri.”
The debate, originally scheduled in September, was postponed after Parson tested positive for COVID-19. Kovacs said the governor’s diagnosis has ensured the pandemic will be one of, if not the central issue as Parson fights for his first full term.
“The Democratic candidate will talk about healthcare and will talk about the pandemic and the pandemic response,” she said. “And what she will phrase as the failure of the pandemic response in the state of Missouri.”
Kovac said a preview of Galloway’s criticism can be found in her public statements and campaign ads. But the same is true of Parson.
One of the campaign ads shared by the Parson camp portrays Galloway as soft on crime and anti-police.
“I find it quite likely that the Governor will go for the ‘Law and Order’ strategy or discourse in his performance,” Kovacs said.
The professor said the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, the black teen who was shot and killed by a white officer in Ferguson, sparked protests and ignited conversations Americans are still having today.
Additionally, Kovacs expects the Governor to find ways to talk about what he sees as his economic achievements.
“It is also quite possible that Governor Parson will bring some of his other topics or issues that he cares deeply about such as workforce development which is one of the banner issues that he has been working on and advocating for,” she said.
Kovac said that while she is excited to watch and learn about the candidates in the debate, she is not sure it will change the minds of voters.
The candidates are competing for more than 4.27 million registered voters in Missouri. But the competition began in Missouri before Friday’s debate.
“I think it is very difficult to move a voter at this point and a lot of ballots have been cast,” Kovacs said. “I’m a little dubious about tomorrow’s debate changing minds in Missouri, maybe what tomorrow can do is make people already feel better about who they are voting for.”
The debate begins at 2 p.m. Friday at the Missouri Theater in Columbia. While the forum is closed to the public, the Missouri Press Association and KOMU-TV will be streaming the event live.