Parson, Missouri GOP Statewide Officials Embark On 4-Year Terms Amid Pandemic Calamity
Gov. Mike Parson and four statewide officials took their oaths of offices on Monday — ushering in four more years of near total Republican rule over Missouri.
It also marks what could be the last phase of Parson’s political career, which started as an elected sheriff of a small southwest Missouri county and eventually led to one of the largest electoral mandates ever for a Republican governor.
Around noon, Parson took the oath of office in front of several thousand people gathered on the Missouri Capitol grounds. This will be Parson’s first four-year term after serving roughly half of Eric Greitens’ truncated tenure.
Without mentioning the myriad of challenges both in recent and not-so-recent days, Parson struck an optimistic posture about Missouri being able to persevere in uncertain times.
“As we closed the chapter on 2020, we all had time to reflect. There were sad times, tough times and exciting times. And through it all ... Missourians prevailed,” Parson said. “Despite the challenges, the heartbeat of our state continues to pump strong.”
Parson’s speech was light on specific policy proposals. He did express support for helping teachers, doctors, farmers and law enforcement officers.
“There’s a spark of Missouri hope and courage born in all of us ... and what we do with it is up to us,” Parson said. “The work to be done is not up to me alone. It is shared by all of us.”
Parson was born in Wheatland, a small Hickory County town of fewer than 375 people. He started working at gas stations when he was 15 and eventually bought two of them while working at the Polk County Sheriff’s Department and raising cattle at his farm in Bolivar.
He was elected Polk County sheriff in 1993 and served in that position until his 2005 election to the Missouri House. He served about six years in the Missouri Senate before being elected lieutenant governor in 2016.
After roughly a year as lieutenant governor, Missouri state government plunged into crisis after Greitens became ensnared in allegations of sexual abuse and campaign finance misdeeds. Parson became governor in June 2018 after Greitens’ resignation. He spent his first year in office passing a major economic development package, a transportation bonding plan and a restrictive abortion bill that’s currently being challenged in court.
The COVID-19 pandemic dominated his second year in office and also was the major issue in his campaign for a full four-year term against Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway. While the Parson-Galloway race was one of the few gubernatorial contests last year that drew millions of dollars' worth of national money, it wasn’t close: Parson won by the largest margin for a Republican gubernatorial hopeful since John Ashcroft’s landslide 1988 victory.
In the months ahead, Parson will be tasked with continuing to roll out COVID-19 vaccines throughout the state. He’ll also likely deal with legislation to shield businesses from COVID-19-related liability, as well as congressional and state legislative redistricting.
“We have seen some challenging days together ... but when it is hard to find the light, sometimes all you need is a spark to get the fire going again,” Parson said during his speech. “Even in the darkest times — Missouri shines on.”
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