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Trump arrives in St. Louis

Pres. Donald Trump is greeted by Gov. Mike Parson at Lambert International on Thursday, July 26, 2018. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — After two Republican candidates for governor lost their elections earlier this month despite the strong backing of President Donald Trump, it wouldn’t have been surprising had Missouri’s chief executive chosen to distance himself from the embattled president.

Instead, Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday offered a full-throated endorsement of Trump, saying he doesn’t think the impeachment inquiry will result in the president’s removal from office.

“I think he’s on the right track for this country,” Parson said. “I think he truly is trying to do good things for this country. I’m going to totally support the president of the United States.”

Parson’s comments came as he filed paperwork at the Missouri secretary of state’s office to put Trump’s name on the March 10 presidential preference primary election ballot.

“We look forward to working with the president during the upcoming year,” said Parson, who will serve as honorary chairman of Trump’s reelection effort in Missouri.

Parson, flanked by Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, told reporters the Democrat-led investigation in Congress into Trump’s action toward Ukraine is the product of a polarized political culture and is too complicated for many to understand.

“I’m not sure everyone understands what’s going on,” Parson said. “The majority of Missourians that I know, this is not on their minds. I really think this impeachment, at the end of the day, is going to be a waste of time.”

He and Kehoe, both of whom will share the ticket with Trump, said they would rather see Congress take action on issues such as foreign trade and the economy.

“Missourians want to see something get done. They don’t want to see gridlock,” Kehoe said.

In 2016, Trump won Missouri by 19 points. His large margin of victory did not translate to other statewide offices, however. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, for example, beat Democratic challenger Jason Kander by just three points, while former Gov. Eric Greitens won by a six-point margin.

Since the impeachment hearings have been underway, two Republican gubernatorial candidates backed by Trump have lost. The president campaigned hard for Eddie Rispone in Louisiana and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, making those races a referendum on himself. But Trump-backed Republican Tate Reeves won the open governor’s seat in Mississippi.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will launch the next phase of the process that could result in the third-ever presidential impeachment.

Parson, 64, a former state senator and lieutenant governor, took over last year after Greitens resigned under a cloud of scandal.

He will likely face Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway, 37, in the November general election. Galloway did not respond to a request for comment.

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Republican state Rep. Jim Neely of Cameron also is running for the GOP nomination, but Parson has locked down support from most major donors.

Parson said the economy will remain his top priority heading into the campaign season.

“We hope to stay focused on those issues that are everyday issues for people,” Parson said.

“As President Trump continues to fulfill his promises of strengthening our economy, rebuilding our military, and putting America first — I am honored to help lead the way for another strong victory for President Trump in 2020,” he added.

On the Democratic side, nine Democratic candidates have filed to be on the spring ballot for president in Missouri, including Tulsi Gabbard, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Also filing to run as Democrats for president are Leonard and Velma Steinman of Jefferson City. Leonard Steinman is a longtime perennial candidate for various state and national offices.

The filing period ends in late December.

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