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story.lead_photo.caption Saundra McDowell, a Republican candidate for governor, visited Callaway County. Photo by Olivia Garrett / Fulton Sun.

A handful of curious voters gathered Tuesday to listen to gubernatorial candidate Saundra McDowell speak.

McDowell, who ran for state auditor in 2018, is challenging Gov. Mike Parson in the Republican primary in August ahead of the November general election.

The event at Serenity Valley Winery was McDowell's first since she filed to run in the race in March, she said.

During her remarks, McDowell cited her religion as her inspiration and defined herself as a grassroots candidate aligned with President Donald Trump.

"Just like I believe Trump was called to run for president, I feel very, very certain that I have been called to run for governor of Missouri, in this time, for a specific purpose," McDowell said, while holding up a borrowed Bible.

She said she feels called by God, and God was also the inspiration for her failed run for state auditor, during which she won a four-way Republican primary but lost to Democrat Nicole Galloway.

The night of the general election two years ago, McDowell describes feeling uncertain and stepping outside to pray with her husband against what she felt was a "demonic attack" on the election.

"You know what I felt like? I felt like it was being stolen from me," she said. "And if you are a Christian and you understand what I mean, Satan steals things from us."

McDowell was defeated, securing only 44.6 percent of the vote.

The religious element played a significant role in McDowell's speech.

"Missouri is hurting — the people in Missouri are hurting, and we need a good leader who's going to follow Christian principles, who's going to do what's right, because this is a battle between good and evil," McDowell said.

Discussing the "evil" she sees, McDowell brought up recent protests and calls to defund the police, allegations of media bias, liberals and a recent Supreme Court decision that determined that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"In 2018, they said, 'Don't talk about God. You can't get votes talking about God,'" she said. "But I'm not here to get votes. I'm here to make positive changes to make Missouri better and I'm here for the people. The votes will come."

McDowell criticized Parson and the Republican Party.

"The reason why they're supporting him now is because they think they have to do that for them to get re-elected," McDowell said. "But they don't support people they can't control."

This time around, McDowell is up against an incumbent governor from her own party, as well as Missouri Rep. Jim Neely and Raleigh Ritter. Should she prevail, she'd then have to take on the winner of the Democratic primary, in which Galloway and Eric Morrison are running.

McDowell's religious conviction resonated with the crowd who turned up. Ashland residents Ken and Jeana Bishop said they wanted to hear more of her message.

"It's clear that she is very passionate and compassionate about the state," Millersburg resident Kris Brooks said, clutching a newly-purchased Saundra McDowell hat.

After the event, McDowell praised Callaway County.

"Fulton has a lot of great people in it and Callaway County is a great county — I think Callaway County probably doesn't realize how instrumental they are in making some really positive changes," she said.

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