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Missouri state auditor Nicole Galloway

Missouri state auditor Nicole Galloway explains why she has launched a special task force to monitor the financial health of Missouri's rural hospitals during an interview withe business reporter Samantha Liss on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, at the Post-Dispatch. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway is planning to run for governor next year, the executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party told the Post-Dispatch.

"She's very serious about the race and is taking steps to assemble a team and the resources it would take to win," said Lauren Gepford, executive director of the state Democrats, adding that she did not know when Galloway would make a formal announcement.

Galloway, a Democrat, won a four-year term as auditor in November after being appointed to the post in 2015 by then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. She narrowly defeated Republican Saundra McDowell last year, winning 50.4% of the vote. 

Galloway's pending entrance into the race presents a dilemma for state Sen. Scott Sifton, D-south St. Louis County, who said earlier this year he intended to run for governor. He declined to comment for this article.

If both did run, the two would face off in an August 2020 primary, which Democratic insiders would like to avoid.

Sifton reported having $313,000 in his campaign coffers as of April 1. Galloway had $65,798 in her account after raising $114,194 in the first quarter.

Galloway, 37, of Columbia, would be the first woman elected governor in Missouri if she were to win in November 2020. She would have to defeat Gov. Mike Parson, 63, to win the office.

Parson, a Republican, has more than $3 million in campaign funds spread across two separate accounts. Parson ascended to the state's top job one year ago after then-Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, resigned after months of scandal.

Before Greitens' election in 2016, Democrats controlled most statewide offices in Jefferson City.

But as of this year, Galloway was the only Democrat left holding statewide office in Missouri.

In the last several months, she has made moves to differentiate herself from Parson.

During her inaugural address in January, Galloway criticized the Parson administration's Department of Revenue for secrecy concerning a tax withholding error that sent jitters through state government. During the speech, Parson was sitting feet from Galloway's podium.

“The administration might have been trying to sweep this under the rug, but I will hold them accountable to you,” Galloway said in her address. “Missourians deserve transparency.”

In May, she needled Parson's office for citing the First Amendment to close public records, and asked a Parson ally, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, to issue an opinion on the legality of such a citation. Schmitt has yet to issue one.

She also criticized a new anti-abortion law Parson signed last month, which bans the procedure at eight weeks of pregnancy. 

"He wants a woman’s decisions over her health care to be criminalized," Galloway said. "It’s extreme and cruel."

Jean Evans, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, said it was no surprise Galloway was preparing a run for governor.

"She's been attacking the governor for a while so we knew she was running," Evans said. "It's not news. I mean, it is. But it's not to us."

President Donald Trump won Missouri in 2016 by 19 percentage points. That said, Missouri Democrats running for U.S. Senate and governor that year lost by more narrow margins.

Still, Evans predicted Parson, who was elected lieutenant governor in 2016, would win a full four-year term as governor. She cited economic growth and the governor's stable hand as reasons voters would give him another four years in office.

"It doesn't matter if it's Nicole, Scott Sifton, or anyone else ... I think the governor matches what people want in Missouri," she said.

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