As the sun set Monday, Callaway County Democrats gathered in Veterans Park to hear from and meet Democrats running for office in November.
Candidate for governor and current state Auditor Nicole Galloway, candidate for lieutenant governor Alissia Canady, candidate for attorney general Rich Finneran, circuit judge candidate Andy Hirth and County Commission candidate Donnie Horstman were in attendance.
"The most important thing the next governor will have to do is contain the spread of the virus and rebuild Missouri's economy," Galloway said.
Galloway spoke about the pandemic, the importance of voting and health care issues such as Medicaid.
Galloway is running against Republican incumbent Mike Parson, as well as Libertarian Rik Combs and Green Party candidate Jerome Howard Bauer.
"He (Gov. Mike Parson) spent almost two decades in Jefferson City," Galloway said. "If he had a plan for our most pressing problems, we would have seen it already."
Parson served in the Missouri House of Representatives from 2003-11 and in the Missouri Senate from 2011-17.
"We don't have to look any further than Gov. Parson's failure to address this public health crisis," Galloway said.
Galloway noted that by the time Parson ordered schools to close last spring, most had already made that decision on their own. Galloway said Missouri needs a reset in its COVID-19 strategy.
She also said she has plans for Medicaid expansion, keeping rural hospitals open, lowering prescription drug costs and ensuring coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
"Gov. Parson opposed Medicaid expansion in the midst of a pandemic," Galloway said.
She referred to Parson's opposition to Amendment 2, a measure Missouri voters approved in August to expand Medicaid health care coverage for low income adults.
"Health care is the biggest issue in this race and has been amplified because of COVID," Galloway said after her remarks. "We know that our rural hospitals are closing. We know working people don't have access to health care, and this is critically important in the midst of a pandemic — that folks have access to affordable, accessible health care."
Finneran also mentioned health care, reminding attendees his opponent, current attorney general Eric Schmitt, is participating in a case challenging the Affordable Care Act that will be heard in the Supreme Court in November.
The case includes a coalition of Republican state attorneys general who argue the ACA is unconstitutional because of a Republican-backed 2017 change to the individual mandate. Previously, people who did not maintain a minimum level of health insurance coverage had to pay a financial penalty. In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate as constitutional, citing Congress's power to tax.
In 2017, the individual mandate was set to zero. The 18 states suing, including Missouri, are now arguing that because the financial penalty no longer produces revenue, the ACA is unconstitutional. Seventeen states are defending the ACA, four joined the ACA defense on appeal and six have filed amicus briefs defending the ACA.
"That's what he's spending our tax money right now fighting for — that's what our attorney general thinks his job is," Finneran said. "Let me tell you, that's not his job. It's not his job to sue China; it's not his job to try to throw out our health care. It's his job to try to protect us, to try to keep us safe, to fight for us."
Finneran was a federal prosecutor in St. Louis, a career he described as his life's calling.
"But when Donald Trump won that election, I realized that I didn't want to be part of the Trump Justice Department," Finneran said.
He said his disapproval of Schmitt inspired him to join the attorney general race.
Canady encouraged attendees to vote and to share information about the election and the candidates they support with friends and family.
Canady is a lawyer who served on the Kansas City Council. She said she originally stepped into politics in attempt to better serve her community and to address issues of poverty.
A big point brought up by multiple speakers is the fact Parson, Schmitt and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe were not elected to their positions.
Parson was elected as lieutenant governor and stepped into his position two years ago when former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned. Parson chose Kehoe to take over his former position. When former attorney general Josh Hawley was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, Parson named Schmitt to his position.
As Schmitt was previously state treasurer, Parson was able to fill that position as well by naming Scott Fitzpatrick.
Parson, Kehoe, Schmitt and Fitzpatrick are running for re-election for positions they were not originally chosen by voters to fill.
Hirth and Horstman were also present Monday. Hirth is running against Republican Josh Devine, who is currently serving in the position. Horstman is up against Eastern District Commissioner Randall Kleindienst.
Horstman spoke about county projects and thanked supporters.
Hirth explained to attendees that judges are responsible for making sure policies are implemented fairly.
"We need judges who are going to uphold the law and who're going to apply it fairly to everybody that comes before the court," Hirth said.