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Last day of legislative session

Sen. Scott Sifton, D-south St. Louis County, speaks on the floor during the last day of the Missouri legislative session on Friday, May 15, 2015. Photo by Cristina Fletes, cfletes@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — A south St. Louis County state senator said Tuesday he would forgo a bid for Missouri governor and instead endorse Nicole Galloway, Missouri’s Democratic auditor, who has planned her own campaign.

“Nicole Galloway is the right person to lead the Democratic ticket in Missouri in 2020,” Scott Sifton, a Democrat, said in a statement. “I look forward to campaigning relentlessly to help get her elected.”

With Sifton out of the race, Missouri Democrats will likely avoid a contentious primary race. If Galloway secures the Democratic nomination in the August 2020 primary, she would face Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, in the November 2020 general election if he secures his party’s nomination as expected.

As of Tuesday, Galloway, 37, of Columbia, had not formally announced her campaign, but she has increasingly signaled her intention to run. Sifton’s endorsement is another indication she is seeking to become the party’s standard-bearer next year.

Sifton, 45, declared his intent to run in January as Galloway shied away from making her intentions known. He said in a news release Tuesday he would never have run against Galloway.

“There was never any doubt that I was going to be with Nicole if she ran, and I made that clear from the beginning to all who asked,” he said. Sifton added he and Galloway had collaborated on legislation that would require government contractors to report large contributions to dark-money groups.

Sifton is a lawyer who has served seven years in the Missouri Senate, winning two competitive races against Republicans in a district that stretches from the Oakville area to Brentwood. He also served one term in the Missouri House, and had served on the Affton School Board.

Then-Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Galloway as auditor in 2015 following the death of then-Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican who had just been re-elected in 2014.

Galloway won a four-year term in 2018, winning 50.4% of the vote and narrowly defeating Republican Saundra McDowell, who was damaged by residency questions and reports that she had failed to pay off her debts and tax bills.

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.

Parson has more than $3 million spread between two campaign accounts.

Sifton said he may still run for a higher office next year, when state treasurer, secretary of state, lieutenant governor and attorney general are all on the ballot. Republicans control all of those offices.

On July 15, candidates will report fundraising numbers for the second quarter, which includes money raised from April 1 through June 30.

Heading into the June 30 fundraising deadline, Democrats previewed a likely line of attack against Parson in fundraising emails. The state party called him an “extremist” for his past statements on LGBT people and support for an anti-abortion bill he signed into law this year.

Despite taking some controversial stands, Parson has attempted to strike a collaborative tone, as opposed to his predecessor, Eric Greitens, whom Republicans and Democrats criticized as abrasive and superficial. Parson has focused on workforce development and infrastructure initiatives.

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