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Nicole Galloway

Nicole Galloway announces her campaign for governor in a video on Aug. 12, 2019.

Updated at 11:25 a.m. Monday with comments from Parson's campaign manager.

JEFFERSON CITY — Auditor Nicole Galloway launched her campaign for governor on Monday, casting herself as an independent watchdog who would look out for Missourians’ economic interests and fix a “broken system” if elected in November 2020.

In a two-minute announcement video, the Democrat accused Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, of doing the bidding of corporations and lobbyists as footage of two men exchanging an envelope plays on screen.

“It’s a broken system, the old way of doing politics,” Galloway said of Jefferson City. “As auditor I fought it. As governor I’ll end it. I’ll take a new approach, one that’s open, that puts your needs first — your health care, your wages, your family.”

Galloway, 37, of Columbia, said her office uncovered $350 million in waste and fraud leading to 40 criminal charges against 18 individuals. She took office in 2015 and won a four-year term last year. Galloway is a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner.

Asked for a response to Galloway's ad, Steele Shippy, Parson's campaign manager, said in a statement that the governor "has a proven track record of reforming government and working hard to turn Missouri around — creating jobs, increasing wages, and delivering a better quality of life.

"Liberal Nicole Galloway echoes the talking points of the national liberals she’s backed in the past and has been critical of historic state and federal tax cuts that have provided great savings to hardworking Missouri families," he said.

"Missouri cannot afford Liberal Nicole's agenda which would turn back the clock on these successes," Shippy said. "We look forward to sharing the Governor's record and vision with Missouri voters."

On Friday, Galloway gave the first official signal of her gubernatorial run by filing campaign finance documents with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Despite the GOP’s dominance in Missouri — Galloway is the only Democrat holding statewide office — she could still draw monetary support from national groups such as Emily’s List and the Democratic Governors Association.

Parson this year convinced the Legislature to approve borrowing $300 million for bridge improvements, significant because lawmakers had failed for years to raise any new money for infrastructure.

He is also in the process of shutting down the Crossroads Correctional Center near Kansas City, and this legislative session he won workforce training programs and new business incentives, despite criticism from legislators within his own party.

Parson took over in June 2018 for Eric Greitens, who resigned in disgrace as campaign finance scandals and allegations of sexual assault engulfed his administration. Greitens funneled donors through a dark-money nonprofit, A New Missouri, which raised $6.1 million in anonymous donations in 2017.

Parson has not followed suit, disclosing all of his donors. His administration is more transparent than Greitens’, even though courtroom battles over smartphone apps that automatically delete text messages, and the handling of certain Sunshine Law requests, persisted under his administration. Parson is expected to launch his campaign next month.

In Galloway’s video, footage of two dimly lit men exchanging an envelope plays as she says “dark money flows from corporations and lobbyists. The governor takes their money, then does their bidding. Nothing gets done for you.”

When asked if the campaign had evidence of Parson accepting bribes, as the video suggests, Galloway campaign spokesman Eric Slusher said in an email, “Mike Parson has been in Jefferson City for years, taking gifts from lobbyists and insiders and then doing their bidding. He is the very embodiment of the broken, rigged system that Nicole Galloway will fix when she is Governor.”

None of the information the campaign cited alleged illegal personal enrichment by Parson.

Among the instances Slusher cited:

  • The governor’s approval of a law that makes it easier for the state to short-list bidders for state contracts, something Galloway said would “create the conditions for public corruption.”
  • Uniting Missouri, the political action committee supporting Parson, accepting $20,000 from Torch Electronics, the company operating gaming machines in gas stations and bars that the Missouri Gaming Commission has deemed illegal.
  • The governor scheduling a high-dollar fundraiser co-hosted by a medical marijuana lobbyist.
  • Parson, as lieutenant governor, being the only statewide official to accept lobbyist gifts.
  • Galloway also criticized an anti-abortion law Parson signed in May, and a plan by Republicans to scrap a new redistricting system that voters approved in 2018 as part of a package of ethics reforms.

In 2018, Galloway faced a weak candidate, Republican Saundra McDowell, who struggled to raise money as revelations concerning her residency and unpaid bills came to light.

Galloway ultimately secured a four-year term, garnering 50.4% of the vote. She won nine Missouri counties that President Donald Trump won in 2016: St. Charles, Ste. Genevieve, Callaway, Cole, Howard, Platte, Clay, Buchanan and Greene.

Parson so far leads Galloway in fundraising.

As of June 30, she had raised $232,070, and had $132,907 on hand.

Parson’s campaign had raised $1.67 million, and had $1.15 million on hand.

His Uniting Missouri PAC reported nearly $2.9 million on hand. Her Keep Government Accountable PAC had $21,000 on hand.

Galloway was raised in Fenton and graduated in 2000 from Ursuline Academy in Kirkwood. She has applied mathematics and economics degrees from the University of Missouri-Rolla, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. If elected, she would be the first female governor of Missouri.

Former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, appointed her Boone County treasurer in 2011. The governor appointed her auditor in 2015 after the death of Republican Tom Schweich.

“Nicole Galloway represents the best of a new generation of Missouri leaders,” Nixon told the Post-Dispatch. “Missourians have seen her intelligence, integrity, energy, and mainstream common sense values throughout her career.”

She lives in Columbia with her husband, Jon Galloway, and their three sons — William, 7, Benjamin, 5, and Joseph, 2.

Post-Dispatch coverage of Greitens, his campaign and The Mission Continues

Greitens, a former Navy Seal, founded The Mission Continues in 2007. His alleged use of a fundraising list from the charity is under investigation.

For coverage of the governor's affair scandal, go here.

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Jack Suntrup covers state government and politics for the Post-Dispatch.