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Parson and Galloway

Democrat Nicole Galloway (left) and Republican Mike Parson

The race is on for Missouri governor. The two top contenders for the job are people of good character who know better than to engage in the kind of divisive gutter politics that helped make Eric Greitens such an impeachment-worthy governor.

This is an open call for Greitens’ Republican replacement, Gov. Mike Parson, and his Democratic challenger, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, to commit themselves to run campaigns worthy of the esteem they have already earned in the public’s eye. Americans have come to accept mudslinging, low-blow politicking as the natural way to run a campaign. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We raise the issue now because of the troubling tone of remarks Parson made Sunday when he launched his 2020 gubernatorial campaign. Since Parson seemed hard-pressed to find anything to attack Galloway on, given her impeccable record in statewide elective office, he decided to drag out some tired, old standby bogeymen.

“We are actually seeing the rise of socialism on the left, and those who want to push us away from capitalism and take away our freedoms. We see politicians on the left outdoing each other with one extreme policy over another,” Parson said.

True, a tiny number of Democrats on the national stage embrace socialism, but Parson isn’t running against them. He knows that Galloway has never espoused such views. Hers are the same moderate positions embraced by most of the state’s Democrats. But it’s clear Parson intended to make that link anyway.

The two candidates are diametrically opposed on at least two key issues: abortion and state cutbacks in health coverage. Galloway, a mother of three, staunchly defends abortion rights. Parson signed into law the controversial House Bill 126 that bans abortion in most cases after eight weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape and incest. Parson also has presided over cutbacks that eliminated health care support for nearly 100,000 children living near the poverty line.

Those issues are fair game. Parson should be just as prepared to defend his positions as Galloway should hers. If Galloway wants to restore health care funding, she should offer ways to pay for it. So far, Galloway has said nothing about “free” government-paid college education for all. But Parson decided to make it an issue anyway, saying, “When these politicians say the word ‘free,’ we all know what that means. That means that you and I are going to have to pay for it. Because when it comes to government, nothing is free.”

Technically, there is one thing in government that’s free: the office Parson currently occupies without benefit of having been elected to it. If he wants to defend his record, he should. If he wants to criticize Galloway’s, he should let the facts speak for themselves. Conjuring bogeymen is the mark of desperation, not leadership.