Four Democratic candidates for Missouri governor all see the most important role of a governor as helping people solve the day-to-day problems in their lives — and in a pandemic, that may include asking people to make sacrifices or adapt to new circumstances.
On Aug. 4, five Democratic candidates are seeking their party's nomination to be the gubernatorial candidate in November: State Auditor Nicole Galloway, of Columbia; Jimmie Matthews, of St. Louis; Antoin Johnson, of St. Louis; Eric Morrison, of Kansas City; and Robin John Daniel Van Quaethem, of St. Louis — listed there in the order they will be on the ballot.
Van Quaethem did not respond to request to be interviewed.
Galloway was appointed to be state auditor in April 2015, following the death of elected auditor Tom Schweich that February. She was elected into the office in 2018. She is a certified public accountant and worked in the private sector before her career in public service.
Matthews is pastor of Riverview Boulevard Baptist Church, and he has held political offices and positions including alderman of St. Louis's 27th Ward.
Johnson said she's been an activist for 25 years, and she has degrees in urban affairs and public administration. She is originally from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and moved to St. Louis 15 years ago.
Morrison is senior pastor of Kingdom Word Ministries, where he said he has been for more than 18 years, and in ministry for approximately 26 years. He said his ministry has included public service with area elementary and high schools, providing food to community members and refurbishing a home for transitional living needs.
Galloway said she's running for governor "to put Jefferson City back on the side of working families," as those families have struggled with health care and everyday living expenses while well-connected insiders have used the system to get what they want.
On what qualifies her for the position, she said she's been serving on the side of taxpayers as auditor, and she said "I've been the outsider in state government" in the position.
Matthews said addressing issues of racism, lack of development, violence, the prison system, people not making a living wage and young people being able to go to college are all important to him. He said his qualifications include degrees in business administration and special education.
Johnson said a governor needs to work for the working class and the poor — as she has as an activist — and not just court people when their votes are needed.
"I have a problem with that. You promise to do something, do it," Johnson said.
Morrison said a governor's primary responsibility is to look out for all Missourians, and during the COVID-19 pandemic specifically, he said those being affected most because of health issues need the most consideration.
Politics meets a pandemic this year, and the dual health and economic crises that Missouri continues to deal with have highlighted a governor's roles of guardian of the public's health and the state's top emergency response manager.
Missouri has been without any statewide public health restrictions since June 16, though local authorities can implement measures such as shutting down activities or having the public wear masks.
The caveat to anyone's plans for dealing with the pandemic or the economy is it's impossible for anyone at this point to predict exactly what the situation with either is going to be later this year or early next.
However, that doesn't change candidates' current priorities and approaches going into the uncertain future ahead.
Galloway said she would view her role as governor in protecting the public's health as including being vocal in encouraging people to wear masks, as a measure to save lives and jobs.
She said a governor has to be open to another lockdown, as "I think it is foolish to draw any lines in the sand" on pandemic response, given the unknowns in what the situation will be in the future.
She said she agrees with current and incumbent Gov. Mike Parson that the increases in cases Missouri is seeing is not a second wave of infections but a continuation of the first.
Matthews said he would listen to scientists and doctors' advice on wearing masks, and he would find ways to not put people at risk in having school — such as providing laptops for remote learning.
Johnson said she would have everyone be required to wear masks — akin to no shirt, no shoes, no service — and "gatherings (such as concerts) do need to stop until we get this under control."
Morrison said the public needs more education and information on what's going on — something Galloway also similarly brought up with regards to the transparency of the state's data.
Morrison added it's important people receive the services they need and are held accountable to make sure necessary medical attention is being given.
"We know that it will be with us," Galloway said of the pandemic's status — whether that's later this year or early next. She said work has to be done to slow COVID-19's spread, and she would build a team of public health experts and epidemiologists to provide good advice and data to her and the public.
Matthews said it's important to make sure the state is prepared to respond to and minimize the pandemic's effects — as with any disaster, such as floods and tornadoes that hit Missouri over and over.
Johnson said she expects an economic recession, and if that happens, she would focus on providing jobs and universal health care. Universal health care to her means no one being denied care, including for pre-existing conditions, and it would be paid for with property taxes.
Johnson also said abandoned buildings could be remodeled into apartments for housing to help get people experiencing homelessness off the street.
Morrison said — not currently being in the governor's seat and given the unpredictability of the situation — he can't really say what he might continue or do differently, but he would surround himself with experts who can find a way to reboot the economy in a way that still protects the public's health.