(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) -- Missouri's two candidates for governor offer voters clear contrast.
First, there is the state's current governor, republican Mike Parson, 65. He has 30 years of public service experience in the U.S. Army, law enforcement, the state legislature and as lieutenant governor before taking office two years ago. Parson took over in 2018 after the resignation of then-Governor Eric Greitens.
"I think experience in life, being in the military, being a sheriff, having a little grey hair makes a difference," Parson said.
Then there is his opponent, democrat Nicole Galloway, currently the state auditor. At 38 years of age, if elected she would become one of the state's youngest governors ever and also become its first female governor.
"I am bringing innovation, urgency and a new way of doing things in Jefferson City," she said.
Much of the election has become a referendum on Parson's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Galloway has been critical of Parson for not making the wearing of masks mandatory.
"I do support a statewide mask mandate," Galloway said. "It is the most low-barrier way that we can contain the spread of the virus. I would listen to public health and medical experts."
Parson has resisted issuing a mandatory mask mandate, saying the state is diverse between both urban and rural areas and one approach does not fit everywhere.
"I think you have to be real careful when a governor starts using that power and ability," Parson said. "We've taken a balanced approach to how we've addressed this in Missouri since day one. We've left this up to the local levels, the local health departments, the city councils, the mayors and the county commissioners."
In addition to the pandemic being a health crisis, Covid-19 has also wrecked economic hardship. However, both Galloway and Parson differ on how the state is recovering.
"Financially, our state is much better off than most of them," Parson said, citing statistics he says shows Missouri's unemployment rate is 5th best in the U.S. and the state ranked 15th in recovery from the coronavirus economic crash.
Galloway does not agree.
"We are still in the greatest economic shock since the great depression," she said. "There was a report out last week that showed 70,000 Missourians have left the labor force and stopped looking for work."
Be watching for more stories throughout the week on KQ2 News from our exclusive one-on-one interviews with both Parson and Galloway.